Shore area beaches have been the subject of much talk and some controversy recently and all indications are the conversation won’t be ending anytime soon.

As it often does at the start of the summer season the issue of paying to use the beach has sparked debate with the latest chapter having to do with the profits some towns have realized.  Last year with plenty of sunshine most Ocean & Monmouth County municipalities took in more money in beach badge revenues then they spent meaning they made money off what Mother Nature has given them.

New Jersey regulations, which are somewhat confusing, allow towns to use revenues to cover just about anything and everything related to the cost of running a public beach.  This means lifeguards and other personnel, cleaning and maintenance, security and I assume plenty of etcetera.  However those same regulations limit what towns can do with profits and it therein lays the confusion as some applied it to general use which is being questioned.

Of course one has to assume that there are summers when the revenues don’t cover costs….a few rainy weekends is all it takes.  I imagine in those cases towns have to take money from somewhere else to cover their beach costs.

In fairness I don’t object to paying to use the beach because like anything else it seems that it should be paid by those who step onto the sand and in the ocean.  If beaches were free here like in most other states then the cost would be passed on to the most heavily taxed residents in the country which is not fair.  However there is another aspect of revenues that is not factored in and that is the cost of parking in many places which makes a day at the beach more than just the cost of a badge.

On a somewhat related note we are still in May but have already had two drownings which matches what we had all of last summer.  As is usually the case the drownings occurred when lifeguards were not on duty and while sympathetic I continue to be amazed by those who swim on unprotected beaches.  There simply is no excuse although I do think towns that seek to attract tourists have a responsibility to do all they can including extending hours for lifeguards during periods of extreme heat when beaches and the ocean are packed late in the day.