Shocking Decision

Oct 25, 2017

To the Editor:

Back on Oct. 5, a really great presentation was made to the Harvey Cedars mayor and council about surfing outside of the flags. Every other town on the Island has tried out, and then adopted, this practice without incident. 

Not only was this presentation logical and reasonable, it was strongly supported by the 20 locals in attendance. Some of them don’t even surf. Additionally, the request was simply for a one-year trial period to see if this would work in Harvey Cedars.

It was therefore shocking to learn that the mayor and council decided to only allow surfing outside of the flags on one guarded beach at 80th Street. This is a disappointment, to say the least. 

The couple of blocks on either side of 80th Street will not be enough to ease the crowded and therefore dangerous conditions that exist at Hudson Avenue in the current system. Also, some will have to travel along the Boulevard on bikes to get to the areas of legal daytime surfing in the summer. This in itself poses a danger, which was one of the many points brought up at the presentation.

The state of New Jersey actually owns the land under the waters where we bathe, surf and generally recreate at the beach. The state accepts and implements the Public Trust Doctrine, which allows people access to these waters and submerged lands. The state gives the towns broad police powers to manage those submerged lands and their adjacent shores to ensure the health and safety of their residents and visitors alike. But it would be hard for a town to argue such a policy ensures health and safety with every other town on the Island having this policy without incident. 

It is incumbent on the governing body to do what any grade school math student has to do – show their work. You’ve arrived at a decision, OK. Now show everyone what that is based on. Show us how you arrived at that decision. 

If the governing body can produce some evidence to back up their claims that this might be unsafe, that it might be more work for the lifeguards, that it might require more guards, thereby making beach badge fees go up, as was suggested at the meeting, then they should produce that evidence. The surfers addressed every one of these points at the presentation.

So please, answer these questions publicly. Did your head lifeguard talk to the other head lifeguards on the Island? Did your head lifeguard express any concerns with this policy? If so, what are they? What made you decide to try this on only one beach? Taxpaying residents deserve these answers.

John Weber, mid-Atlantic regional manager

Surfrider Foundation

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