LAVALLETTE — In a resolution passed during a virtual meeting Monday, May 4, Lavallette officials opened the borough’s beaches to the public for running, walking, fishing and sitting. The resolution calls for social distancing to be practiced while on the beach, with people staying at least 6 feet apart.
The council also decided masks are not required while on the beach.
The resolution keeps the boardwalk shut down, due to the smaller space that the public can occupy.
Officials had a back-and-forth discussion on whether to open the beach, how to do it and what rules need to be followed.
All permanent beach rules continue to apply, officials say, including but not limited to: No animals on beach, no smoking or vaping, no organized games or activities and no alcoholic beverages.
Mayor Walter LaCicero said the borough will give the beach opening an initial run-through, and adjustments may have to be made in the coming weeks.
“We know as it gets warmer, we’re just going to be dealing with more and more people down here. With our size police force, the enforcement of any actual ban is going to be extremely difficult for us to accomplish, with 26 access points and just a handful of guys,” he said. According to Councilman Robert Lamb, the bay front has been packed.
“The bay front is just incredibly crowded everywhere from Washington Avenue all the way through. It’s incredible,” said the councilman, “so I would like to see the beach being open.”
Councilman Michael Stogdill also said the crowds have caused issues.
“On the bay, you got people that jog and there are people that just don’t move for you. They don’t get it, and you end up having to cross the street to finish a walk because there are just groups of four or five that just refuse to move,” he said.
He said it is hard for a person to practice social distancing outdoors when others are not practicing it.
Nearby beach towns such as Point Pleasant Beach, Brick, Seaside and Toms River have plans to open their beaches soon, according to Mayor LaCicero.
The idea of opening the boardwalk along with the beach was pressed by some officials during the meeting.
Councilwoman Joanne Filippone opposed this action.
“You can’t social distance on the boardwalk with the amount of people. It’s impossible,” said Ms. Filippone.
“There are a group of people who haven’t left their homes who would like to get out, but because the other group doesn’t social distance, everyone is afraid,” she said.
“We’re just at a pitch. I’ve been tracking the numbers for weeks. We’re just beginning to slow down in the county, just now…,” she said. “If in two weeks we start going up, we’ll know why.”
With the opening of just the beach, Councilman James Borowski said this could be a good time to try to guide the public.
“Right now, before the crowds do develop into the mid-July crowds, we have an opportunity to get people to train, be a little bit more cognizant of what these social distancing requirements are,” he said, “so that as it expands and more and more people come, maybe we can still manage it.”
“We’ll give it a shot with the beach first, and we can always rescind the boardwalk closing through special order from the chief of police,” the mayor said.
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