By Donald Wittkowski
Ashlynn Snyder confided Wednesday that she didn’t have enough money to buy a $5 beach tag in Sea Isle City.
“I only have $4 in my wallet. I normally couldn’t even go on the beach,” she said.
But there was no need for her to worry while she was lounging on the 43rd Street beach along with some friends and family members.
Sea Isle’s normally ubiquitous beach tag inspectors weren’t about to swoop in, demanding that Snyder cough up the $5. They were nowhere to be found on this day.
During each Wednesday over the summer season – the only exception is if the Fourth of July falls on a Wednesday, like this year – Sea Isle gives everyone a break by not requiring beach tags.
“Yes, we don’t send out our beach tag walkers or inspectors on Wednesday,” city spokeswoman Katherine Custer said.
It’s no secret. Sea Isle has had free beach days on Wednesdays for at least 25 years as a way to attract visitors, Custer said. Still, not everyone is aware of it.
“I didn’t know about it,” said Sea Isle visitor Stacy Shaw, a Millville resident who was enjoying some beach time Wednesday with a group of friends and family members.
Shaw promised that she would come back to Sea Isle the following Wednesday to take advantage of the perk.
“I just think that it’s a really nice thing that they offer that for the day,” she said.
Shaw planned to use the $5 that she saved from not having to purchase a beach tag to buy an ice cream for her grandson.
Ice cream was also on the mind of Ashlynn Snyder, the beachgoer who had only $4 in her wallet. Once the “Fudgy Wudgy” ice cream man showed up on the beach, she rushed out to buy some frozen treats.
Snyder, of Warrington, Pa., and her friends chose to visit Sea Isle on Wednesday because they wouldn’t have to buy a beach tag.
“We knew Sea Isle was free, so we just did it,” said Shain Morgan, of Philadelphia, one of Snyder’s friends.
Snyder said she sometimes hits the beaches in Wildwood or Strathmere, because beach tags are never required in those towns. The free beach day in Sea Isle on Wednesdays gives her another option.
“It’s easier for the day, because sometimes we don’t have cash,” Snyder said.
The free beach days were the idea of the late Irene Jameson, Sea Isle’s legendary former public relations director. Jameson also conceived of Sea Isle’s annual Polar Bear Plunge, a wildly popular event that draws tens of thousands of visitors to town in February for a weekend of partying, dining and shopping, culminating with a chilly dip in the ocean.
Custer, Sea Isle’s current public relations chief, said the free beach days are particularly popular with school groups and summer camps that are looking to save some money.
“They can get 50 kids or more on the beach without a beach tag,” she said.
Sea Isle also sells seasonal and weekly beach tags. Those tags are favored by visitors taking extended vacations. The $5 daily beach tags are usually purchased by Sea Isle’s daytrippers. For that reason, the free beach days are especially popular among the daytrippers, Custer said.
Beach tag sales generate about $1.4 million in annual revenue for Sea Isle. The revenue covers the cost of keeping the beaches clean, collecting the trash, employing lifeguards and hiring summer police officers.
Paula Doll, Sea Isle’s chief financial officer, estimated the city loses out on only a couple thousand dollars of beach tag revenue during the free beach days over the entire summer.
“For the amount of goodwill it does, it certainly is worth that,” Custer said. “It gives people an opportunity to visit who might not otherwise.”