The width of the berm at Ortley Beach remains smaller than usual this summer thanks to a contractual dispute in Washington over bids to replenish beaches on Ocean County’s northern barrier island, however Toms River Public Works crews said they perform daily maintenance along the oceanfront to keep entrances open and as safe as possible.
Most of the neighborhood’s beach access points were closed between the fall and winter due to repeated storms creating “cliffs” that prevented safe entry to the sand. The entrances, as well as the slopes of the easternmost portion of the dune line, were repaired in a $305,000 contract with Earle Asphalt Company before the start of the summer bathing season, however the berm – the portion of the beach where visitors set up chairs and towels – has not grown nearly as wide this season as in the past. A few summertime storms have chipped away at some of the work. Now, residents say, the township may want to crack down on the size of tents and wind barriers being erected by beachgoers due to the reduced width.
“There are large tents being put up that block the view of a lot of people,” said resident Anthony Colucci at a meeting of the township council Wednesday night. “Wind screens are blocking passageways, and because the beach is so small it’s hazardous. Even the lifeguards have been forced to move their stands back and away because their sight-lines have been blocked by the large tents.”
“Some of the ramps, the mats at the bottom, are a hazard,” he continued, referencing a mat at the entrance to the Fifth Avenue beach. “A lot of our residents are elderly and that needs to be replaced or fixed.”
A public works official who was at the meeting said the ramp at Fifth Avenue had been repaired and his crews review more than 50 beach access points on a daily basis to ensure they are safe. In some cases, sand is added as needed.
“They added sand to every opening on that beach today,” the Public Works official, whose name was not announced, said.
Fifth Avenue, in particular, has been referenced as a particularly tricky beach to enter this season. Though the mat has been repaired, Council President Matthew Lotano admitted the slope of the access point “gets a little steep at the end.”
While officials have pledged to keep up with the maintenance of beaches, it has not been ruled out that some entrances could be closed again if a strong storm affects the area over the summer.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, as part of its periodic beach renourishment program, plans to re-engineer Ortley Beach and widen its berm significantly in order to address the erosion that has been experienced since it was last replenished in the years following Superstorm Sandy. But a contract to complete the $30 million project between Manasquan and Barnegat inlets is the subject of a protest and is unlikely to be resolved before the fall – at least – or the start of next year.
Council members did not comment on the request to put limits on the size of beach tents and sun shields, though other towns along the Jersey Shore have done so through local ordinances over the years.