Families will be packing New Jersey state parks all summer, perhaps more than ever now that they will be free for the rest of the season.
While that’s good news for some who are looking for things to do, a few towns along the Jersey Shore say that the announcement will become a nightmare for them.
Gov. Murphy’s post pandemic gift for state residents will become a challenge for residents and officials in towns bordering places like Island Beach State Park.
“All up and down the barrier coast…parking is always at a premium and traffic is always busy in the summer. So yeah, this is definitely gonna heighten it,” said John Camera, business administrator for Berkeley Township.
“People can’t get into the park and they need to turn around, and then they park on the side streets and it’s hard to get into your house,” said local resident Joan Tully “On a busy weekend, it’s hard to get into your own driveway.”
Seaside Park Mayor John Peterson said that on a busy and hot summer day, traffic could be backed up for miles once the park reaches capacity — which can be as early as 9 in the morning.
“It does have a detrimental impact and could impact on safety,” Peterson said. “It could have a dramatic impact unfortunately on our personnel who volunteer in the first aid and fire department getting vehicles down there if there was an emergency. It’s a serious situation.”
The mayor said that a planned meeting with the state over the winter didn’t happen, so Seaside Park is asking for help in the form people power, such as lifeguards and special police. Meanwhile, South Seaside Park has asked the state’s permission to use two vacant lots outside just outside Island Beach State Park to get more vehicles off the street.
The state’s Department of Environmental Protection said it was aware of the issue. But in the meantime, the towns are bracing for big crowds over the July 4th weekend.
“We don’t want to discourage additional people on our beach or in our businesses — but we want to be able to manage it was best we can, and we think parking would help tremendously,” said Camera.