BELMAR — Benches may be returning to the boardwalk, as members of the borough council listened to complaints from residents who are clamoring for them to return.
The borough moved benches off the boardwalk earlier this year at the start of the COVID-19 outbreak in order to create more space on the boardwalk for pedestrians and to reduce the chance of spreading the virus through a common seating area.
Since the end of the summer season, residents have been calling for the benches to be returned.
Mayor Mark Walsifer said the borough’s office of emergency management is watching the boardwalk to see if pedestrians have a hard time social distancing.
“If it looks like our boardwalk is not packing up this weekend, we will probably really start to look at putting them back,” the mayor said.
Councilman James McCracken, at the Oct. 6 borough council meeting, said he has been in contact with residents who have been asking for the borough to reinstall benches.
“Certainly, our top priority as a municipality and the office of emergency management is to keep our residents safe and that has been the top priority since the COVID-19 crisis hit,” he said. “I would just like the office of emergency management to consider perhaps directing the department of public works to put maybe just one bench on the boardwalk, maybe one at each gate or every other gate.”
The mayor responded to Mr. McCracken by saying that the borough was taking a look at putting some benches on the boardwalk in the cut-out area.
One borough resident at the meeting asked for a return of the benches, telling members of the council that the benches are for more than just sitting, as some are memorials to loved ones who have died.
“My main point is that many [benches] have been dedicated to lost ones and it’s a place we want to go and need to go,” Jennifer DeBlasio said.
Councilman Thomas Brennan said that while Belmar has yet to put benches back on the boardwalk, other neighboring towns like Spring Lake, Avon-By-The-Sea and Bradley Beach have their benches on the boardwalk.
“Belmar has been very good about working with Trenton. We are playing by the rules. We are doing what they are telling us to do. We came up with a plan that they like and the towns around us just seem to do whatever they want, and Belmar’s residents suffer for it,” he said. “We are waiting for the governor to lift that executive order for the state of emergency for the social distancing and meanwhile Spring Lake has their benches out, Avon has their benches and Bradley Beach is crazy with benches.”
“I understand it is a big job to put all those benches back, but if there is any way to put even a limited number back, it would really be beneficial to our residents,” the council president added.
This is an excerpt of the print article. For more on this story, read The Coast Star—on newsstands Thursday or online in our e-Edition.
Subscribe today! If you're not already an annual subscriber to The Coast Star, get your subscription today! For just $34 per year, you will receive local mail delivery weekly, with pages and pages of local news and online access to our e-edition on Starnewsgroup.com.
Follow local coronavirus news at: https://starnewsgroup.com/coronavirus/