DEAL, N.J. (AP) — Even as work crews are widening its beaches with sand paid for by every American taxpayer, one wealthy Jersey shore town plans to prevent the public from parking near those beaches.
The borough of Deal is due to vote Friday on an ordinance that would restrict parking on six streets nearest the beach to residents only. They would be issued permits to display in their vehicles.
The move comes as the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is finishing a $40 million beach replenishment project that has drastically widened Deal's beaches — work completely paid for by the federal government.
Beach access advocates and fishing groups are protesting the move, saying Deal has a long history of discouraging outsiders from using its beaches.
"How is this town getting away with this?" asked John Weber, east coast regional manager of the Surfrider Foundation. "When we were challenging New Jersey's new beach access regulations four years ago, this is exactly what we warned would happen: If you let the towns be in charge of their own beach access, they'll pull stuff like this. That has come true."
Deal officials did not immediately respond to requests for comment Tuesday.
Restrictive parking laws are one tactic some Jersey shore towns employ to discourage outsiders from using their beaches. Deal currently restricts parking on some streets near the beach to two hours during the day. Mantoloking also uses that tactic but takes it a step further by restricting people from parking on any public street practically anywhere in the town for more than two hours within a 24-hour period. If a visitor parks in one spot for two hours, then moves the car to a different street, he or she can still get a parking ticket. Several municipalities on Long Beach Island also drastically restrict parking, which has the practical effect of limiting beach access to homeowners.
Deal, which is located in central New Jersey just north of Asbury Park, has a mile of beaches, but swimming is permitted at only about 1,300 feet of it, at a private beach club and one open to the public.
Weber said his group went to court to challenge a town ordinance in the 1990s under which police would ticket surfers for violating no-swimming regulations at the other beaches. The policy has since changed to permit surfing, he said.
"Access was so notoriously bad in this town even before they decided to do this," he said.
Jeff Tittel, director of the New Jersey Sierra Club, called Deal's proposed ordinance "shameful."
"Towns like Deal want our money for beach replenishment, but do not want to allow the people who pay to fix the beaches to get access to them," he said. "This is another example of a town trying to restrict public access by eliminating and severely restricting parking. The beaches of New Jersey belong to all of us and the people of New Jersey have the right to get to our coast. By limiting parking, the average person cannot get to the beach they own unless they live in town."
Wayne Parry can be reached at http://twitter.com/WayneParryAC