Maryland Beach opening stirs optimism for the weekend

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Parking passes are still required on borough streets east of the railroad tracks, though contractors at work are exempt and 15-minute stops for curbside retail pickups are permitted. PHOTO BY MARK R. SULLIVAN

POINT PLEASANT BEACH — Borough officials are lauding a successful beach opening as community members put on their sunscreen, grabbed their beach chairs and headed to Maryland Avenue Beach for its opening a week ago.

During the borough council’s virtual meeting on Tuesday night, the mayor said the May 15 opening would help guide plans for the coming holiday weekend and the summer season to follow.

With strict social distancing measures and restricted resident-only parking rules in place to ensure the safety and well-being of beachgoers, Mayor Paul Kanitra said the May 15 opening was exactly what borough officials hoped it would be.  

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“The crowds were totally manageable,” he said. “It was just what we were hoping for on that front. Our residents felt safe the whole time which was the most important thing and our police were able to handle things properly which was also very important for us.”

During the three-day Memorial Day weekend, temporary parking passes will still be required in order to park on borough streets east of the railroad tracks — a move to discourage an unlimited influx of out-of-towners, Mayor Kanitra said.

However, 15-minute parking is permitted for patrons of businesses offering curbside pickup of food or other merchandise.

Contractors, landscapers and delivery drivers are also exempted from the parking pass requirement if they are actively engaged in work.

Maryland Avenue Beach and some beach associations will again have strict social distancing measures in place. 

Lifeguards will be on duty and equipped with HEPA [high-efficiency particulate air] filters in their resuscitation devices.

“They have personal protection equipment in their medical bags,” he said. “They are ready.”

Visitors should wear masks upon entering the beach and are strongly encouraged to use a credit card when purchasing passes, Mayor Kanitra said. He said badge checkers will continue to wear masks and police will monitor the beach. 

“We think that everybody is going to be very safe up there,” the mayor said, adding the borough will not micromanage activities. “We’re going to trust that people will do the right thing.”

Passes for Maryland Avenue Beach are available via aquaservelg.com. 

The beach is first-come, first-serve and a limited number of groups will be allowed on. If the beach hits capacity, the borough will shut the beach down to keep those on the beach safe.

After Memorial Day, the borough hopes to provide access to beaches bordering the boardwalk to give crowds that may come enough space to distance.

“The one thing that the residents of Point Pleasant Beach should know is that there is no one that isn’t pulling their weight,” Mayor Kanitra said. “We’re all working on this collectively. All perspectives are heard. The decisions that we make come by utilizing the expertise of everybody in the room, there’s nobody dominating the conversation. It’s a true team effort.”

LOOKING AHEAD TO BUSINESS OPENINGS

The boardwalk will remain closed for Memorial Day Weekend, but officials hope to have it opened sometime in early June, in line with Gov. Phil Murphy’s decisions on the opening of amusements, bars and restaurants.

In the meanwhile, the borough council is drafting an ordinance to allow restaurants to use outdoor spaces for dining areas, they said.

“Part of what we want to do is get our business community back,” said Mr. Kanitra. “We want to stand everybody up, but here in Point Pleasant Beach were trying to be cognizant of the resources we have available to us. We want to make sure when we have that influx that we’re able to handle it and keep everybody safe.”

“My hope coming out of this, and my focus, is really the Fourth of July and forward because that’s the majority of when we do all our business,” said the mayor. “It’s important to the town in terms of parking revenue, it’s important to a lot of businesses.”

“It’s a target,” said Mr. Kanitra. “It’s subject to change. We’re not going to be too proud here in Point Pleasant Beach if we say something and then there’s an uptick in cases or there’s a second wave.”

When opened, the mayor said, the boardwalk is planning on using social distancing ambassadors, hand sanitizer stations and more to keep people safe and comfortable. 

“We’re only going to get one chance to make a new first impression with everybody,” he said, adding that when people are deciding where they want to go in July and August, he wants them to feel safe picking Point Pleasant Beach.

“I want people to recognize that when they come down to Point Pleasant Beach, we’re going to welcome them with open arms and they’re going to be coming to the safest Jersey Shore town on the coast,” he said.

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