New Jersey beaches can open, with restrictions in place, on May 22

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When the Memorial Day weekend begins on May 22, New Jersey’s beaches will be open for business. On May 14, Gov. Phil Murphy signed an Executive Order allowing beaches, boardwalks, lakes and lakeshores to open with social distancing measures in place. The order takes effect on May 22.

The order was issued as New Jerseyans continued to deal with the impact of the 2020 coronavirus pandemic.

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“I’m thrilled to announce the Jersey Shore will be open to families across our state and region in a way that is consistent with protecting the public health of every beach-goer,” Murphy said. “This action will ensure New Jerseyans can enjoy our state’s greatest natural resource ahead of the summer months.”

According to a press release, under Murphy’s Executive Order, the following amenities will remain closed on private and public beaches, boardwalks, lakes, and lakeshores: water fountains, picnic areas, playgrounds, pavilions, indoor recreational facilities, and other buildings and facilities, such as visitor centers. Bathrooms, showering areas and changing areas may open.

To limit physical interactions, the order requires municipalities, lake commissions, private club associations or entities, and other local government to implement reasonable restrictions, including imposing non-discriminatory capacity restrictions; requiring that members of the public practice social distancing; removing, taping-off or otherwise blocking all benches and tables; prohibiting special events such as festivals, concerts, fireworks, and movies; and prohibiting all organized or contact activities or sports.

The restrictions also apply to public piers, docks, wharfs, boat ramps and boat landings throughout the state. Any unit of county or local government, and private beach clubs, may impose additional restrictions to the ones listed above and retain the legal authority to close beaches or boardwalks if they choose to do so, according to the press release.

The Executive Order recommends, but does not order, that people wear a face covering while in public settings at the beaches, lakes and lakeshores when social distancing measures are difficult to maintain.

Restaurants and bars on beaches, boardwalks, lakes and lakeshores are still limited to delivery and take-out services only, and amusement parks and arcades, and other places of public amusement on the beaches, boardwalks, lakes and lakeshores must remain closed.

Any outdoor seating, such as tables or benches, must be removed, taped off, or otherwise blocked, according to the press release.

In a press release, state Sen. Declan O’Scanlon (R-Monmouth) and state Assemblywoman Serena DiMaso (R-Monmouth) said they were “pleased that Gov. Murphy has listened to our repeated calls to open our beaches in time for Memorial Day. This a critical move for shore communities as we continue to progress with reopening our state after flattening the curve.

“Residents reacted positively following the (state and county) parks reopening and followed guidelines set in place. As we have stated, opening outdoor locations like beaches is a safe and common sense reopening action since residents can spread out for social distancing.

“We stressed the beach opening issue continuously and loudly to the administration over the last few weeks and it appears that today the governor has listened. This is yet another step, just one of many, that we will have to take in the coming weeks to bring our state back, both for the economic and mental health of our state and residents,” O’Scanlon and DiMaso said.

In a press release, Jeff Tittel, director of the New Jersey Sierra Club, said, “It is good news that beaches are going to open and use social distancing to protect people. It has been a long winter and this is something people can celebrate.

“We want to make sure everyone gets to celebrate, not only people who own homes or live in beach towns. The people of New Jersey have paid for these beaches and have the right to enjoy them.

“For far too long, many towns along our coast have tried to block access to people who do not live in their communities. The Attorney General has to make sure the beaches will be opened to all, but more importantly, we think the governor should sign an Executive Order to make sure there is public access and uphold the Public Trust Doctrine.

“Towns like Long Branch, Avalon, Deal, Loch Arbour and others have historically tried to block access. We are concerned they will use the pandemic as an excuse, but the state cannot let them get away with it. They want our money to fix or maintain their beaches, but they don’t want us.

“We have been fighting this battle for over 40 years and we will keep fighting to make sure our beaches are accessible for everyone. The beaches of New Jersey belong to everyone, and everyone should be able to enjoy them with proper social distancing,” Tittel said.

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