Beaches at the New Jersey Shore are beginning to reopen, with two of the Wildwoods set to lift most restrictions and reopen the boardwalk, beaches, and parks, effective Friday.
The boardwalk for Wildwood and North Wildwood will be open for walking, running, and other activities, North Wildwood Mayor Patrick T. Rosenello announced Tuesday. Beaches, parks, and other public spaces will open for all activities, including stationary activities like sitting in a chair or lying on a blanket. Social distancing must be practiced, Rosenello stressed.
“As the weather gets nicer, people are coming down, and they’re coming down whether the boardwalk is open or not,” said Wildwood Mayor Pete Byron.
“By the sheer size of our beach, it’s very easy to practice social distancing,” Byron said. “It’s a lot easier to social distance on the boardwalk than on the sidewalk.”
Rosenello said, “Closing those large open spaces while folks are still coming down is kind of counter to giving people ample social distancing room."
Byron said police will monitor the areas to prevent large gatherings. “We like to think the people are responsible enough that they shouldn’t need much coaching,” he said.
Combined, Wildwood and North Wildwood have 17 had cases of coronavirus and no deaths. Cape May County has had 27 deaths and 379 total cases.
Other beach towns, like Ventnor, Avalon, and Stone Harbor, will also reopen their beaches Friday, but only for athletic activities like walking, running, and fishing. Sunning in a chair or a blanket, as well as swimming, will not be permitted. Wildwood Crest lifted some restrictions on its beach, parks and bike path last weekend for recreational activities only. Basketball and tennis courts reopened, too, but large gatherings are prohibited.
Wildwood and North Wildwood never closed their beaches entirely — they had restricted use to athletic activity — so Rosenello said easing those restrictions "was kind of just a natural progression for us.”
Rosenello and Byron said they coordinated the reopening, as they have previous restrictions, to minimize confusion.
Additionally, the towns will allow short-term rentals to resume May 26, the day after Memorial Day.
“We wanted to get past Memorial Day weekend,” said Byron. “At that point, the next big rush would be typically the Fourth of July, and we hope by then things will be open at a greater percentage.”
In March, Cape May County issued a blanket ban on short-term rentals across all municipalities after Gov. Phil Murphy passed an order allowing counties or municipalities to restrict them rentals. Murphy has discouraged visitors from traveling to Shore communities and this week said it was “too early to tell” whether the state’s beaches would reopen for the holiday weekend.
Rosenello said that Wildwood and North Wildwood are able to ease their rental restrictions because municipalities have jurisdiction to make their own decisions as long as state orders like social distancing continue to be followed.
“We understood it as either/or,” Rosenello said. “Our short-term rental order has been different from the county’s.
“Any restrictions are specifically left to municipalities,” he said. “And we are recognizing the restrictions the state has in place."