New Jersey officials look at banning 'beach spreading' tent networks

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Toni Yates has the details from Belmar on the possible ban on 'beach spreading.'

Every Sunday, one lifelong local resident says she sees little condos crop up across the beach.

Lois Gelman, 57, of Wall, started seeing them a couple of years ago: massive tents, fit for families of six, surrounded by lawn chairs and umbrellas.

"The problem is they encroach on other people's area. They shadow a large portion of the beach," said Gelman, who has gone to Belmar beach her whole life. "They bring tables, coolers. It looks like they're moving in for a week."

Gelman and other locals tell the Asbury Park Press that they welcome the Belmar Borough Council's recent proposal to ban the use of such tents and canopies - a practice known as "beach spreading."

Seaside Heights, Avon and Long Beach Island have similar restrictions in place.

The proposed resolution would ban large tents from Memorial Day until Labor Day, when Belmar's population of 5,800 swells up to 60,000, Mayor Matt Doherty said.

Doherty said he's received complaints from the Department of Public Works, police officers, badge checkers and lifeguards, as well as patrons, claiming the tents exacerbate crowding at the beach and can block a lifeguard's view.

"I love tailgating at Metlife Stadium," he said, "but those same tents for tailgating are not appropriate at the beach."

The resolution would make exceptions for children's tents, but it does not specify what size tents are allowed.

Leigh Fitzsimmons, 34, of Middletown, says she bought a tent earlier this year for her 5-month-old baby and her mother, who has melanoma. The tent fits up to two lawn chairs.

"It's made going to the beach a lot easier," said Fitzsimmons, who has visited Belmar beach since she was a teenager. "I was happy that Belmar was one of the few that still allows it (tents)."

Fitzsimmons said she hopes the final resolution will include more specific parameters so she knows what tent to buy for her family.

"If they leave it up to the discretion of the badge checkers, it's just going to depend on who you run into that day."

Doherty said at this time the council does not plan to implement specific size requirements, but that it would be up to the badge checkers and police officers to make sure the spirit of the resolution is enforced (i.e. exceptions for children's tents).

Some locals, like Gelman, think the resolution is a solid first step in dealing with summer crowds that have gotten out of control.

"I love the summer, and I love the feeling when all these people come here," Gelman said. "I'm not opposed to people coming here. I'm opposed to people coming here and being rude."

The borough council plans to discuss the proposal at its Sept. 5 meeting. If passed, the ordinance would likely take effect around Memorial Day 2018.

Related Topics:
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