Thousands of residents across the state are waiting with bated breath for Memorial Day weekend to arrive, as Gov. Phil Murphy announced on Thursday that beaches and boardwalks will be openfor the official start of beach season next week.
Thousands of others decided: Why wait?
Awakening to sunny skies and balmy weather Saturday morning, a countless number of New Jersey residents flocked to the many beaches across Atlantic, Cape May, Monmouth and Ocean counties that are currently open to the public.
Local officials are at minimum prohibiting group activities and sports at the beaches to curb the spread of the coronavirus, but some are enforcing stronger regulations than others to ensure that beachgoers continue to practice social distancing.
For example, Asbury Parkhas reopened its beaches for sunbathing and swimming, but has removed benches and established one-way travel in each direction on the boardwalk to eliminate group congregating.
Joe Bongiovanni, the beach safety supervisor for Asbury Park, said it “took a little while” for beachgoers to catch on to the altered regulations, but visitors have been “behaving themselves" on the boardwalk and beach in his Monmouth County city.
“Everybody seems to be maintaining six feet for social distancing,” Bongiovanni said on Saturday. “So far, things look pretty good ... People have been so used to doing what we’re doing with social distancing, it seems like most of them are paying attention to it.”
Asbury Park will not start requiring badges to enter the beach until next week, upon which time overall beach capacity will be controlled by limiting the number of passes that are sold.
Still, Bongiovanni said the beach and boardwalk were visited by thousands of people between Friday and Saturday, roughly 50% of whom arrived wearing face masks.
“When we officially open up, we’ll have people walking around reminding people of social distancing and the wearing of masks. It’s not going to be something that’s required, though,” he said.
Down in Ocean City in Cape May County, large crowds were seen walking on the boardwalk Saturday, and many were enjoying the sunshine on blankets and beach chairs on the sand.
Some people wore face masks to help protect themselves and others from the coronavirus, but social distancing appeared to be difficult to maintain at times.