The Cove circular beach at the south end of Brigantine is a best-kept secret that got out to the world long ago. Now crowds in 4x4 vehicles and boats descent on it during the summer, bringing challenges to the municipality and its police.
Last summer, the noise, litter and drinking were sometimes too much. There were too many fights and even a bomb threat.
City Council responded sensibly this month with an ordinance allowing Brigantine to take some steps to restore order — while leaving drivers and others to enjoy their sand-and-surf fun.
Next year, city police and officials will be allowed to check coolers 36 quarts and up or with a 24-inch side for quantities of alcohol. They’ll also be authorized to limit access to the Cove or even close it in response to overcrowding or conditions deemed unsafe or impeding law enforcement.
The new controls are aimed especially at holiday weekends that have produced the most trouble and complaints, Fourth of July in particular. Brigantine is also seeking to have the N.J. State Police station a patrol boat at the Cove that weekend.
The city also plans to increase the size of its police patrols from the current two officers, and to add more lifeguards to beaches there.
Brigantine officials appropriately are seeking to pay for the increased enforcement and oversight with additional funds from the sale of permits to drive on the city’s beaches. Buying a 2020 permit in January and February will cost $200, just $25 more than this year. But those buying after March 1 will pay $100 more than this year’s $200 in-season price. Local residents are advised to not wait like most people, who buy their permits in June and July.
The city’s actions are a well-thought-out response to the increasing popularity of beach driving and use of the Cove.
Just seven years ago, 2,700 permits a year were sold. That grew slowly to more than 3,000 permits in 2017. With the rebounding national and state economies and word-of-mouth about the Cove spreading further, last year vehicle permit sales nearly doubled to about 5,800.
If the higher permit prices that fund the additional city oversight also discourage some from buying them, that wouldn’t be the worst thing. People may also start avoiding the holidays because the beach is too crowded.
Cove visitors should realize their increase in numbers puts a burden not just on the city but on themselves as well. They should welcome the new policies that will preserve their beach driving and partying experience, and behave in ways that don’t wear out their welcome with city officials and Cove neighbors.