The beach and boardwalk in Seaside Heights will reopen on May 15 with social distancing protocols in place, no swimming, reduced parking availability, and no short term rentals for the Memorial Day weekend.

The beach and boardwalk closed in March as Gov. Phil Murphy's executive order prohibiting gatherings of any size and non-essential travel took effect to slow the spread of the COVID-19 virus. While the order is still in effect, shore towns are deciding what they will do as the Memorial Day weekend approaches.

Seaside Heights on Sunday announced the beach and boardwalk will reopen in phases beginning Friday, May 15 with limited access and activity along with a 5 p.m. closing for both. Several annual summer events have also been canceled.

“Make no mistake about it, our beach and boardwalk operations will be very different from past years," Mayor Anthony E. Vaz said in a statement. Besides amusements, restaurants, bars and retailers are being affected by executive orders issued by Murphy.

Visitors will also see less fewer beach attendants, lifeguards and seasonal laborers because of what Vaz called a likely "substantial loss of revenue" because of the pandemic.

"We cannot sustain beach and boardwalk operations on the backs of local taxpayers. Nonetheless, we will work hard to give our visitors a worthwhile experience, but we ask for everybody’s continued patience and understanding,” Vaz said.

Beach and boardwalk:

The most restrictions will be in place for the first week between May 15 and May 22 with swimming and sunbathing prohibited, and blankets, chairs, coolers not allowed on the beach. Boardwalk activity will be limited to walking, jogging and bicycle riding, with no dogs allowed. The beach and boardwalk will be open 10 a.m. - 5 p.m.

Beach access is limited to Blaine Avenue, Franklin Avenue, Hiering Avenue, and Hancock Avenue, which will be staffed.

During the second phase the beach will be open 9 a.m. - 5 p.m. and the boardwalk 7 a.m. - 11 p.m. with entry from Blaine Avenue, Franklin Avenue, Dupont Avenue, Hiering Avenue, Carteret Avenue and Hancock Avenue. A beach tag will be required to enter the beach. Chairs and towels will be allowed.

The north bayfront boat ramp will be open but no personal watercraft or boats are permitted on the shoreline.

At all times gatherings are limited to 10 people or less, public restrooms will be closed and shower pedestals and water fountains will remain shrink wrapped and unavailable. Everyone will required to stay six feet apart on the beach and boardwalk with face coverings encouraged but not required.

Parking:

Vaz said metered parking and lots will be reduced to 50% capacity. The Grant Avenue lot, Hiering Avenue lot, Sampson Avenue lot and the “free parking” lot at Webster Avenue & Bay Boulevard and boardwalk street end parking areas will be closed.

Short Term Rentals:

Short term rentals will be prohibited through the Memorial Day weekend until May 31. Motels, hotels, and multi-family dwellings (3+ units) will be permitted to rent not more that 25% of available units between June 1 and June 31.

Special Events:

The Monday night concert series, tribute band concert series overnight beach camping, and Wine On The Beach are all canceled. No busker/performer permits will be issued through June 30. Third party special events in May and June are cancelled

Vaz expects many of the restrictions to remain in place through the summer.

Seaside Heights Emergency Management Coordinator Erik Hershey asked all visitors and residents to comply with the restrictions put in place and to practice social distancing.

"We can accomplish both if we all accept personal responsibility for our behavior," Hershey said.

The borough's plans come ahead of what Murphy said at the end of his daily news briefing on Thursday would be "a significant amount of guidance in the next five to seven days" about summer business and activities.

"We are looking at a lot of things you’ve asked us about, whether it's beaches, non-essential retail or whatever it may be. And there's a lot of different considerations and a lot of steps that we are looking at," Murphy said.

Neighboring Seaside Park reopened its beach on Wednesday but the boardwalk is closed. Lavallette, Seaside Park and Toms River (Ortley Beach) are all open, so there is bound to be more demand and even overflow when nicer weather returns.

Island Beach State Park also reopened when Murphy allowed state and county parks to reopen while Sandy Hook at Gateway National Recreation Area is also open. Both are operating at 50% capacity and do not allow swimming.

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