A bill making its way through the New Jersey state Senate would ban smoking on all public beaches.
BRADLEY BEACH – Residents here balked at a proposal that would have limited when people could swim at the borough’s beaches.
Bradley Beach Mayor Gary Engelstad said he’s pulling an ordinance that would have allowed swimming only when lifeguards are on duty, which would have limited swimming to 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. from May 31 to Labor Day.
Instead, the borough will write an ordinance that explicitly says swimmers are doing so at their own risk when lifeguards aren’t on duty.
“We’ve gotten some really thoughtful input from residents,” he said. “We want to be a little more common sense with this.”
The issue with swimming hours came up as the borough was revising its beach ordinance to match the statewide beach smoking ban, which you can learn about in the video at the top of the page.
While updating the smoking section, language was also updated to include a suggestion from Monmouth Joint Insurance Fund, the borough’s insurer, to restrict swimming when lifeguards aren’t on duty, Engelstad said.
Many of Monmouth County’s beach towns are members of Monmouth JIF, but it’s not clear how many actually take that advice.
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Deal is one of the few — if the only — Monmouth County beach towns that restrict swimming to certain beaches when lifeguards are on duty.
The municipal code in Sea Bright, which is also in Monmouth JIF, outlines hours and days when beachgoers need badges but does not say anything about swimming at unsupervised beaches. The borough does, however, post signs that say when lifeguards are off duty and warn swimmers they are doing so at their own risk.
Tim Sexsmith, a Bradley Beach resident who is at the beach daily during the summer, said the proposed ordinance would have limited swimming to about 80 days a year and likely runs afoul of the public trust doctrine, a legal standard that dates to the Roman Empire and declares that the beach shore is owned by everyone.
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He said the proposed changes would have had far-reaching implications, killing off everything from early morning and after work swims to the post-Labor Day respite year-round residents get from tourist-crowded beaches.
“Someone is thinking about it from a public safety standpoint but I think they are doing a bit of overreaching,” Sexsmith said.
Bradley Beach Councilman John Weber said the borough should be able to restrict swimming during unsafe conditions, such as rough surf or at nights.
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But, overall, he said, the borough would save more lives by putting up signs that warned people they were swimming at their own risk when lifeguards were off duty.
“I don’t want to give someone the ability to call (swimmers) out of the water because it’s 8 in the morning or 6 at night or it’s Sept 12. It’s not right to me,” said Weber, who is also the Mid-Atlantic Regional manager for Surfrider Foundation.
Susanne Cervenka: @scervenka; 732-643-4229; firstname.lastname@example.org
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