(MARK R. SULLIVAN/THE COAST STAR)

BELMAR — With days to go until beaches open for Memorial Day weekend, Mayor Mark Walsifer set a serious tone Tuesday night as he urged borough residents and visitors from other towns to respect social distancing guidelines or face possible beach closures.

The borough experienced long lines and a one-day sellout of beach badges last Saturday, a sign that pent-up demand may test COVID-19 guidelines as the holiday weekend unfolds.

The Belmar mayor’s cautionary theme was echoed in other shore towns, including Bradley Beach, which reversed a decision to delay beach badge sales after Gov. Phil Murphy issued a general blessing for beach openings on Memorial Day weekend, the traditional kickoff of the Jersey summer season. 

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Noting the governor’s emphasis on compliance with guidelines as the COVID-19 pandemic continues, however, Mayor Walsifer warned: “We have to social distance, or the state is going close our beach.”  

 Borough Administrator Ed Kirschenbaum Sr. opened Belmar’s Tuesday, May 19, borough council meeting by reading the borough’s beach plans and rules.

The Belmar beachfront will be split into four zones: First Avenue to Sixth Avenue, Sixth Avenue to 11th Avenue and 11th Avenue to 20th Avenue. If one zone starts to get overcrowded, beachgoers will be directed to the least populous zones in order to reduce crowding. 

“The task force that split the beach into four zones will make sure that people are staying consistent with social distancing guidelines; of course family members and household members are an exception to the guidelines,” Mr. Kirschenbaum said.

As far as keeping track of crowd sizes at the beachfront, the borough’s office of emergency management will be using a drone at the beachfront to observe crowds. Gate attendants will also have counters to keep track of how many people they allow onto the beach. 

Borough social media accounts will also be used to inform beachgoers which zones are full and when there the beachfront reaches capacity. 

If the beachfront gets too crowded, borough officials said, they have the option to close the beachfront. In the event that happens, there will be no refunds of beach badges. 

Six new beach badge booths have been ordered and will be installed at the beachfront area. Six foot distances will be demarcated for lines to the booths and bathroom facilities. Visitors are required to wear a face mask in order to enter the bathroom. 

Showerheads at the beachfront will now be motion activated. 

(MARK R. SULLIVAN/THE COAST STAR)

Benches have been removed from the boardwalk, cleaned and will be returned at a later date. 

The borough has also closed its recreation activities during the summer, such as the surf camp, junior lifeguards program and the volleyball camp. Active sport activities are also prohibited at the beachfront. 

The borough has also created a task force, called the Belmar Friendship Force, that will inform visitors of the new rules as well as social distancing. According to Mr. Kirschenbaum, the group will “take a non-combative, deescalation approach to be ambassadors of goodwill to our visitors and our residents” and “they’ll be asking people to comply with social distancing guidelines in a non-combative type of situation.”

“They are not there to enforce any laws or any guidelines. They are just there to help,” he added. 

Belmar is one of several shore towns that met with Gov. Murphy to discuss ways to reopen the Jersey Shore. During his March 14 press conference, Gov. Murphy said that “[Mayor] Mark Walsifer and his team in Belmar put forward, in particular, a really smart beach plan.”

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