Freeholder Virginia E. Haines said that restrooms at the parks will also be open, but visitors centers and pavilions will remain closed. Wochit
TOMS RIVER — The iconic Point Pleasant Beach boardwalk will remain closed this Memorial Day weekend, but all 27 Ocean County parks will be open come Friday, public officials said Wednesday.
“We have been gradually opening up our parks,” said Freeholder Virginia E. Haines. “Well, this weekend, starting on Friday morning at 6 a.m. all of our parks will be open.”
That includes all off-leash dog parks at Robert J. Miller Air Park in Berkeley and Ocean County Park in Lakewood, Haines said, noting that it’s one of the most frequent questions she has been asked since the county parks system began a staggered reopening of its parks earlier this month.
“People wanted to know when they could go to the dog parks,” Haines said, who is chairwoman of the county Department of Parks and Recreation. “Well, they will be open starting Friday. So that should make everyone happy.”
Restrooms at all parks will also be open Friday, although visitors centers and pavilions will remain closed. Capacity would also be limited by closing half their parking lots, Haines said.
The county Division of Public Information also said in a statement that the Point Pleasant Beach boardwalk would remain closed to the public this weekend. The Shore borough is rare in that most of its beachfront is privately owned.
The Maryland Avenue Municipal Beach will be open but restrictions on parking and the number of daily badges available has been set. Private beach associations have also been given the option of opening and most have chosen to do so, the statement said.
“Only (Point Beach) residents with placards are permitted to park on any street east of the railroad tracks,” the statement said. “The boardwalk and Jenkinson’s Beach remained closed, but their status may be updated in the near future.”
Seaside Heights will be open its beachfront from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. with limited entry points. A seasonal or senior beach badge will be required effective Saturday. Daily badges will not be sold on the boardwalk and swimming will not be allowed. The famous Seaside Heights boardwalk will be open itself, but its rides and arcades will be closed and the boardwalk will be cleared at 11 p.m., the statement said.
Social distancing will be enforced for both the beach and boardwalk. Face masks are also encouraged and public restrooms will be open on a limited basis. Capacity at all public and private parking lots will be reduced by 50 percent, the statement said.
Long Beach Island’s six municipalities all plan to open their beaches to the public this weekend, according to the statement.
“This is a learning experience for all of us,” said Freeholder Director Joseph H. Vicari, who asked that the public make an extra effort to be considerate to one another and be sure to practice social distancing.
Ocean County Sheriff Michael G. Mastronardy said with temperatures expected to be in the 60s at the Shore this weekend, and with all the bars closed, authorities were not expecting to see the kind of crowds that lined Belmar’s boardwalk last Saturday to purchase beach badges. The temperature last Saturday was nearly 80 degrees.
“Otherwise, we might be a little more nervous,” Mastronardy said.
Tourism in Ocean County is a $5 billion annual industry and county officials have not been as apprehensive about the fate of the region’s economy since the summer of 2013. The unofficial start of that season came seven months after Superstorm Sandy all but obliterated many of its coastal resorts and much of the Shore remained in shambles
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Nevertheless, Haines expressed optimism that the summer season could be saved.
“I’m sure within the next few weeks, as all of us have said here on the board (Wednesday), that more and more of our businesses will be opening, especially our restaurants,” Haines said during her public remarks at the weekly freeholder meeting. “As I’ve said many times, I’m tired of my own cooking and I really would like to go out to eat. But, I certainly do understand why we had to close our businesses, our restaurants … to get rid of this pandemic that we’re all facing across the United States.”
Haines said she prays every day that the rate of new COVID-19 infections will abate.
As of Wednesday, 8,112 people in Ocean County — about 1.3% of its population — have been infected with the novel coronavirus and 656 people have died, according to the Ocean County Health Department.
“Our numbers are showing” a decrease, Haines said. “And I just ask all of our residents of Ocean County just to be safe and healthy, and please wear your mask and do the social distancing.”
Erik Larsen: 732-682-9359 or firstname.lastname@example.org