Because beach replenishment projects — especially those revitalizing battered shore town beaches in Hurricane Sandy's wake — are funded by federal tax dollars, two legislators have proposed nixing beach badge fees.
Senate Bill 2368 was introduced by Sen. Michael J. Doherty (R-23) and Senate President Stephen M. Sweeney (D-3) and would require municipalities that accept state or federal aid to rebuild storm-damaged beaches to provide beach access and restroom facilities to the public free of charge.
“It is likely that state and federal taxpayers will provide hundreds of millions of dollars to repair and replenish New Jersey beaches that were washed away during Hurricane Sandy,” Doherty said in a news release. “Considering the massive public resources that will be directed at rebuilding many New Jersey beaches, it only seems fair to ensure that everyone have the opportunity to enjoy free access to the beaches they will support and help rebuild with their tax dollars.”
The legislation would apply to towns that accept grants or aid from state or federal governments after Nov. 2, 2012 for the purpose of replenishing storm-damaged beaches.
If the legislation passes, municipalities that accept aid for rebuilding beaches would not be allowed to adopt or enforce ordinances requiring the collection of fees for beach badges.
Those municipalities would also be required to provide free public restroom facilities to beachgoers between Memorial Day and Labor Day weekends.
“Where taxpayers are paying for beach restoration, they shouldn’t be taxed a second time just to walk on the sand,” said Sweeney in the news release. “As New Jerseyans, we are all in the recovery and rebuilding process together. That means we should all be able to enjoy the reopening of our state’s greatest natural resource together, too.”
Sea Bright has been offering the full season badges for its public beach at half price. However, nearby privat beach clubs are rebuilding, allowing no public access, which has been major point of beach access contention.
A resolution passed by the Long Branch Council earlier this month states that the bill, "fails to recognize the operational costs associated with operating a beach and which are incurred by a shore municipality."
"Under the legislation proposed in S2368 the current method of sharing the operational cost between users (people who purchase beach badges) and local taxpayers would be shifted to become the sole responsibility and burden of the local property taxpayer," the resolution states. "Such a shift from a cost-sharing model to a single payer would cause an immediate and dramatic rise in local property tax rates."
Should beach access be free or do you think towns deserve the badge money to cover guarding and maintenance costs? Tell us how you feel in the comments section of this story.