Beach buggy access to the Seaside Park beach is expected to be restored following the adoption of a written beach management plan Thursday night.
The federal Fish and Wildlife Service initially told the borough to cut off access to beach buggies – the colloquial name for four-wheel drive vehicles that anglers use to drive on the sand with fishing gear – in contemplation of the development of a beach management plan. The idea of such a plan, ostensibly to address the presence of piping plovers, a threatened bird species, and seabeach amaranth, a dune grass species that is occasionally present in the area, was looked at skeptically by some anglers, who fear they can be used to restrict access to beaches by federal agencies that are historically unaligned politically with recreational fishermen.
In Seaside Park, however, officials say they have enjoyed a positive relationship with Fish and Wildlife, which specifically recognized the borough last year for being the only municipality in New Jersey with piping plovers that did not lose a single chick to any incidents or accidents on the beachfront. The borough council, after consultation with its attorney and those in the community who reached out to provide input, drafted a management plan that effectively formalized the regulations that had already been in place for beach buggy access.
Under the plan, approved unanimously and without any public comment Thursday night, beach buggy access will continue from its traditional entrance point at Brighton Avenue, and the beach buggy season will continue to run from Sept. 15 to May 15 every year. Access has been closed for several weeks following the request from Fish and Wildlife, and there is a chance it may not be restored before May 15 of this year since the plan needs to be received in a formal memorandum of understanding with the federal government – an action which began with the adoption of the plan by a resolution of the council Thursday. The language of the plan, officials said, has already been met with federal approval.
The regulations as promulgated by the plan allow beach buggy access in most areas of the borough, though the northernmost few blocks will be off-limits, and as has always been the cash, vehicles are prohibited from operating high on the sand near the dune line. Beach buggies will be allowed to operate from F Street as the northern boundary to 14th Avenue as the southern boundary. Brighton Avenue will remain the entrance and egress point for all vehicles, according to Borough Administrator Karen Kroon.