Beach parking at the Gateway National Recreation Area at Sandy Hook will increase for the first time in nine years, just in time for the unofficial start to summer on the Memorial Day weekend.

It will still be free to enter the park, which is run by the National Park Service, but parking at the beach goes up to $20 per day starting Saturday, May 29 and $100 per season. Season passes will go on sale May 4 at and in person in mid-May.

Fees have increased four times since 1983 when beach parking fees were first established at Gateway. This is the first fee increase since 2012.

The park service says 80% of the parking fee money is put back into the park and helps pay for the increase in cost for services, such as lifeguard protection and to improve the condition of visitor facilities.

"As visitation numbers continue to rise, this fee increase will help the park maintain the amenities that visitors expect and deserve, such as safe and clean beaches, restrooms, and shower facilities," the Park Service said in a statement.

Fees have helped restore the restoration of the Sandy Hook lighthouse, improvements to the docking facility,renovations to the Guardian Park restroom and expansion of free public kayaking and canoeing programs. Future projects include increased visitor access to the historic Mortar Battery, upgrading the Sandy Hook water treatment system and new street lights.

The Park Service said that there are many things that can be done for free at Sandy Hook including Fort Hancock, the Sandy Hook Lighthouse, Guardian Park, and Horseshoe Cove. Interpretive programs, including tours, seining, and canoeing, are also free.

Contact reporter Dan Alexander at or via Twitter @DanAlexanderNJ

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