OCEAN CITY, N.J. -- America’s Greatest Family Resort has resorted to closing its beaches and boardwalk to keep people from spreading the coronavirus.
“Even with all the directives already in place, it’s clear that not everybody is taking the order to shelter in place seriously. With the weather getting warmer, it will only get worse,” Ocean City Mayor Jay A. Gillian wrote in a letter to the community. “We have a large senior population, and it’s of utmost importance to take their well-being into consideration.”
Gillian said that he understood the impact the closed spaces will have on the Shore town but that he “will always err on the side of caution.”
Over the weekend, the boardwalk in Ocean City was crowded with people, even as announcements over the loudspeakers urged proper social distancing. People reported even some screaming matches between locals and second-home owners. Regular surfing beaches were drawing a dozen or more out-of-state cars as well.
Other Shore towns, including the Wildwoods, have considered shutting down their boardwalks, as locals, visitors, and second-home owners have sought solace by the sea. Don Cabrera, the mayor of Wildwood Crest, even suggested closing the bridges to keep visitors home.
Wildwood Mayor Pete Byron said Thursday that he and North Wildwood Mayor Pat Rosenello “are both unified in not closing the Beach/Boardwalk at this time."
”Way too early to be that aggressive," Byron said via text. “Only hurting the residents.”
Seaside Heights closed its beaches Tuesday, encouraging residents to stay home and stop the spread of the virus. Point Pleasant and Spring Lake closed their boardwalks.
On Thursday, people in Ocean City flocked instead to the pedestrian path along the Ninth Street Bridge causeway into town, though there were also people on the boardwalk. Police had not put up any physical barriers to the boardwalk, but the loudspeaker informed people that it was officially closed. Manco & Manco’s continued its drive-up takeout service.
Officials in Shore towns and counties, and even Gov. Phil Murphy, have pleaded with second-home owners not to relocate to Shore homes during the coronavirus shutdown. But some of these mayors still say they would not consider shutting down their beloved wooden walkways.
In Atlantic City, Mayor Marty Small Sr. said earlier this week that the city’s wide, iconic Boardwalk was considered a street and would not be restricted. City Council President George Tibbitt told the Press of Atlantic City: "Dumbest thing I ever heard was closing the boardwalks.”
But Thursday night, Small warned in a Facebook live video from City Hall that he would close the boardwalk if people continued to gather on the Boardwalk.
“As quick as I made the decision to keep the Boardwalk open, I will close it without hesitation.” He also warned against looting, saying the Boardwalk was full of surveillance cameras." He said the city now had two confirmed cases.
In Ventnor, whose narrow boardwalk connects with Atlantic City and where numerous cyclists and pedestrians have been out exercising in recent weeks, Mayor Beth Holtzman said closure was not under consideration.
“Will not do that and hope people adhere to our Governor’s order with social distancing!” Holtzman said via text message. “Our Boardwalk and beach is a place for exercise as well as a healthy place for our hearts, minds and souls. More now than ever!”
Staff photographer Tom Gralish contributed to this article.