Borough Can Do Better

Nov 15, 2017

To the Editor:
I am writing in reference to the recent decision by the Harvey Cedars commissioners to allow surfing outside the flags at 80th Street effective summer 2018. While on the surface this appears to be a positive outcome, I see it as a disappointing one destined to fail. 

I wholeheartedly agree with John Weber’s letter (“Shocking Decision,” 10/25). Several Harvey Cedars residents have expended a lot of energy to make surfing outside the flags available on all Harvey Cedars beaches. Their efforts have included generating a petition with over 3,000 signatures, delivering a well-researched, impassioned presentation to the mayor and commissioners on Oct. 6 and providing very thoughtful, respectful follow-up. Given the numerous unanswered questions, it was surprising to see the almost dismissive email response announcing the resolution – truly a shocking decision.

As a homeowner on the south end of town, allowing surfing outside the flags at 80th Street does nothing for me or my family. It’s too far to walk or ride a bike with boards, and parking is already tight in that area on a typical summer day. Plus, forcing a group of surfers into a small area will only increase the potential for incidents and accidents. No thank you.

I will continue my normal summer routine of surfing with my kids at Mercer Avenue in the morning and then heading to Surf City for the remainder of the day. My kids will do the same or travel to another town that welcomes surfers. Our surfing friends never visit us because of the already restrictive surfing access compared to the rest of LBI.

In addition to creating an inconvenience for Harvey Cedars surfing families, it’s just bad business. When I travel to Surf City for the day, I am not driving back to Harvey Cedars to eat lunch, grab a coffee or buy other supplies. Also, this situation has me questioning the number of beach badges I need to purchase each season. If most of my crew is heading elsewhere during the day why do I need eight season badges?

Finally, a big part of my decision to buy a home in Harvey Cedars was for the excellent surfing beaches. While not as special as they once were due to replenishment, Harvey Cedars is still one of my favorite surfing spots in the whole world. Why wouldn’t we want open surfing beaches to be a draw for other surf-crazed families willing to spend their discretionary dollars (and pay local taxes) in our little beach town?    

As a taxpayer, I understand some of the arguments against our effort – safety concerns, parking congestion, increased costs (e.g. additional lifeguards) – but there has been no evidence presented to validate these issues. Interestingly, Harvey Cedars already supports a variety of extracurricular activities: Concert in the Park series, annual Dog Day Race and a robust lifeguard program focused on training and competing. All of them have related safety, parking and expense issues as well, but we happily support them (and I am glad we do). Let’s not forget we have biennial fireworks in Harvest Cove (supported by donations, but we did have a serious accident in the past) and the Clam Jam will be held this fall on 80th Street, where we will be supporting mostly non-resident surfers. Why can’t we do the same for our kids?

I attended both the Harvey Cedars Taxpayers Association meeting, as a member, on Aug. 26 and the commissioners meeting on Oct. 6. A lot of people spoke at both meetings and not one voiced opposition to surfing outside the flags. As a matter of fact, I was blown away by the number of non-surfers declaring their support.

The pessimist in me sees the commissioners’ decision as a way to produce a negative outcome by jamming too many surfers into one small area: parking (I am sure the 80th Street residents will complain since the area can’t handle an influx of cars), safety, conflicts with swimmers, assigning additional guards (supporting the unfounded assumption of additional costs), etc. If so, it will be the commissioners’ excuse to say we tried it and it failed. That would truly be a sad outcome for Harvey Cedars. 

The mayor, commissioners and lifeguard captain are all good, well-intentioned people who have done a lot of great things for the borough, for which I am thankful. However, I know they can do better for the residents and passionate surfing community of Harvey Cedars. John Weber’s letter posed several questions that need to be answered.

I respectfully ask the mayor and commissioners to reopen this matter, answer the questions, share factual information and reconsider a more acceptable solution. I think it’s only fair to schedule another public meeting with all of the interested parties so these issues can be fully addressed before next summer. 

Bob Gilpin

Harvey Cedars

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