Shore town denies trying to limit beach access with parking
A wealthy New Jersey shore town denies it tried to limit public access to its newly replenished beaches by restricting nearby parking to residents only.
The town of Deal withdrew a proposed parking ordinance Friday that would have given permits to residents of six streets nearest some of its beaches. All other parking on those streets would have been prohibited, but the plan caused an outcry in part because the ordinance was proposed just as the federal government was finishing a nearly $40 million project to widen Deal's beaches.
Mayor Morris Ades said the town was simply trying to help oceanfront residents who complained about not being able to park in front of their homes this summer.
"It has never been our intention to restrict access to the beaches," he said. "Our problem is really trying to help the homeowners that live in that area so they can park their cars on the street. What we thought we were doing at the time was reasonable. We're putting it aside for now and trying to find a better way."
Beach access advocates say the affluent coastal enclave -- where the median home price is nearly $1 million -- has a long history of discouraging outsiders from using its beaches. It has a mile of beaches, but swimming is permitted at only about 1,300 feet of it, at a private beach club and one open to the public.
Police officers in Deal, just north of Asbury Park, used to routinely ticket surfers for violating its no-swimming ordinance until a surfing group sued to get the policy overturned in 1993.
"There's something fundamentally wrong when you try to go bathe in the water and you get a ticket from a police officer,' said Robert Francola, a resident of nearby Loch Arbour.
Many of the dozens of people who turned out to denounce the ordinance Friday said oceanfront homeowners, most of whom live in spacious, multimillion-dollar homes, can simply utilize their sprawling driveways to park.
"Selfishness is the bottom line on this issue,' said Patty Verrochi of nearby Ocean Township. "With these large mansions, it's greed and selfishness."
No Deal residents spoke in favor of the parking restrictions at Friday's meeting, and knocks on the doors of numerous homes where parking would have been restricted went unanswered. Many of the houses are summer homes for New York residents.
The contract for the beach widening project, which the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has nearly finished, includes making sure the newly added sand is available to all.
Restrictive parking laws are one tactic some Jersey shore towns employ to discourage outsiders from using their beaches.
Deal restricts parking on some streets near the beach to two hours during the day. Mantoloking restricts people from parking on any public street practically anywhere in the town for more than two hours within a 24-hour period. Several municipalities on Long Beach Island also drastically restrict parking, which has the practical effect of limiting beach access to homeowners.
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