Many NJ beach fees raised

May 22, 2009 5:42:34 PM PDT
Memorial Day weekend heralds the unofficial start of summer at the Jersey shore, and some visitors will find the price of a day at the beach has gone up. New Jersey is one of a handful of places nationwide that charge beach access fees, and five raised their daily beach badge prices this year.

Bradley Beach, Brigantine, Cape May, Sea Girt and Toms River raised their daily fees by $1, the state Public Advocate's Office said. It now costs $5 to $8 to enjoy the surf and sand in those places.

Seasonal badges are up by $5 in Cape May Point, Lavallette, and Toms River, and by $10 in Sea Girt. They range as high as $125 in Deal.

The survey did not include privately owned beaches. New Jersey has five free public ocean beaches: Atlantic City, North Wildwood, Upper Township, Wildwood City and Wildwood Crest. Three more Raritan Bay beaches - Highlands, Keansburg and Middletown - also are free.

Mantoloking continues to be the most expensive public beach in the state. The seasonal fee for its municipally owned beach is $12, but it does not sell daily badges, meaning people have to pay $12 to use it even for one day.

The beach also doesn't have lifeguards, restrooms, showers or changing rooms, does not allow food, and restricts nearby parking to two hours.

Most of Mantoloking's beaches are privately owned and operated, and will sell daily badges to the public for $8.

In 13 towns, it costs $8 to $12 to go to the beach for one weekend day. They are: Avon, Bradley Beach, Brigantine, Longport, Mantoloking, Margate, Monmouth Beach, Sea Bright, Sea Girt, Seaside Park, Spring Lake, Surf City and Ventnor.

Keeping those beaches unspoiled and free from pollution is a continuing concern of environmentalists, who held a rally Friday afternoon in Long Branch to urge the Obama administration to reinstitute a ban on offshore drilling for oil and natural gas along the East Coast.

A ban that had been in place for decades recently expired. The administration recently held public hearings around the country, including one in Atlantic City, on whether such energy exploration should be allowed. It has not yet made a decision.

"We don't want it here," said Jeff Tittel, director of the New Jersey chapter of the Sierra Club. "We want to make sure the only oil on our beaches is suntan oil."

Rep. Frank Pallone Jr. (D-Long Branch) said legislation is pending in Congress that would ban offshore drilling on the east coast. Proponents of such drilling say it can be done safely and without impacting the coastal economy.

The number of drivers taking to the roads this weekend in New Jersey is projected to be down slightly as the recession keeps some folks close to home. But traffic heading to shore towns was heavy Friday afternoon, and was expected to get worse as it got later.

About 7.4 million drivers are expected to use the Garden State Parkway between Thursday and next Tuesday, down from 7.6 million last year, according to the New Jersey Turnpike Authority.

The average cost for a gallon of regular gasoline is $2.20 this weekend, down from $3.81 last Memorial Day weekend.

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