ASBURY PARK, N.J. (CBSNewYork) – As New Jersey residents head for the shore this summer, it will cost some families hundreds of dollars to enjoy the beaches sitting in their own back yards.
Many are wondering why their shore towns charge taxpayers a fee just so they can stand on a beach – especially those with low incomes.
CBS2’s Jessica Layton demanded answers from local officials.
It may have been a gorgeous beach day down the shore, but the fun in the sun doesn’t come free. A season pass costs some New Jersey residents $70 and that isn’t affordable at all.
“Would you pay that?” Layton asked a New Jersey resident.
“Probably not, it’s ridiculous,” they replied.
An Asbury Park resident has raised $25,000 to buy beach badges for people below the poverty line.
New Jersey allows municipalities to set the price. Shore cities and towns will tell you that cash keeps the boardwalks in good shape and pays for lifeguards, beach police, and trash removal.
“If you’re a longtime resident of a city it should be included in your taxes,” local Mike Keeling said.
CBS2 took that point to the deputy mayor of Asbury Park, where beach fees brought in about $2 million last year.
“Why do residents – people who already pay taxes – have to pay more to use the public beach?” Layton asked Deputy Mayor Amy Quinn.
“That’s a question for the state, not us,” Quinn said, deflecting the question.
Quinn claimed that’s because state law allows no or reduced fees for only a few categories of people including:
- Senior citizens
- People with disabilities
- Active military and their families
- Gold star families
The list does not include residents in beach communities or those with low incomes.
“Is Asbury Park making the case for that with the state? That this is kind of like being taxed twice?” Layton said, continuing to push the issue.
“Well, I think we can reach out to our representatives,” Quinn replied.
The issue has come up in the legislature before, but gone nowhere. State Sen. Vin Gopal said “it’s up to the town whether it chooses to make all beach badges free while using general tax revenue to cover beach-related expenses.”
Quinn claims Asbury Park isn’t in position to do that yet.
“I don’t believe we could run this as well without the beach utility money,” she said.
“What would you say to someone who says this badge system across the state discriminates against the low income of New Jersey?” Layton asked.
“I say let’s get to Trenton and do something about it,” Quinn said again pushing the issue away from local policy-makers.
For now, the cost to enjoy the coast “is what it is” – little comfort to the locals who can’t afford a day at the beach this summer.
Atlantic City and Wildwood do not charge the public to use the beaches. Those towns reportedly generate enough money from annual tourism to waive any costs.