One of Wildwood’s biggest draws is that the beaches are free. In these tough economic times many families choose Wildwood as their summer vacation destination based on the fact that they do not have to purchase beach tags. That could change for the 2013 season. On March 5th town officials will ask the voters to decide if the beaches of Wildwood will remain free. They have been asked twice before, in 1976 and 1981, and have voted no both those times.
Mayor Ernie Troiano Jr says the budget is 1.6 million dollars short and the “taxpayers can no longer shoulder the burden.” The voters have to decide to pay higher taxes or impose the beach fees. It is not an easy question. Tourism is what drives the economy of the beach towns. If the fees are instituted will families keep coming? What happens to the local businesses if Wildwood loses a large percentage of tourists? The Greater Wildwoods Tourism Improvement and Development Authority did not support putting beach fees to a vote. They released a statement Friday saying beach fees “would not be advantageous to our overall tourism economy.”
We were fortunate to attend the New Jersey Sea Grand Consortium’s revealing of the 2012 New Jersey Top Ten Beaches in Sandy Hook last May. The winner for the third year in a row was, you guessed it, The Wildwoods. Greater Wildwoods Tourism Improvement and Development Authority Director of Marketing & Public Relations Ben Rose accepted the award and he acknowledged that a big part of Wildwood being so popular is that it is free. Would they still place first in the hearts of beachgoers if they charged beach fees?
This all leads to the big question of whether all beaches should be free. Many other states do not charge for access to their shorelines. Most New Jersey beaches do have a fee so Wildwood can’t be blamed for bringing the proposal for a vote. Stay tuned.
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