By Donald Wittkowski
People buying their beach tags in Sea Isle City will also be handed something else – in addition to that precious piece of plastic giving them access to the sand this summer.
The city has printed 10,000 pamphlets that politely explain the do’s and don’ts of beach etiquette and also offer some safety tips.
The pamphlets are part of a public education campaign following complaints by local residents about smoking, drinking and rowdiness on the beach as well as a new phenomenon known as “tent-spreading.”
City officials have decided on taking a kinder, gentler approach this summer rather than enacting a slew of new laws and regulations to crack down on boorish beach behavior – hence the pamphlets.
“You don’t want to browbeat people. You want to keep them engaged,” said Katherine Custer, the city’s public relations director.
Custer and City Council President Mary Tighe teamed up to create the new pamphlets. They will be given to people when they buy their beach tags and will also be part of Sea Isle’s Visitors Guide.
The city spent less than $1,000 to print the pamphlets. For now, they will be the centerpiece of a public education campaign to get the word out about proper beach behavior.
“We decided we would go with education first,” Tighe said.
Tighe noted that city officials will watch to see whether the pamphlets actually have any impact on the public. She raised the possibility of City Council approving new ordinances later on if rowdy behavior continues this summer.
The section of the pamphlets titled “Beach Safety” includes some commonsense tips for beachgoers, including swimming near a lifeguard, being extra careful in rough surf, keeping an eye on children and not feeding the seagulls.
There’s also a warning not to leave tents and umbrellas unattended, for fear they could blow away in the wind and possibly injure other beachgoers.
Another part of the pamphlets, titled “Beach Etiquette,” stresses the need for courteous behavior, but does so in a catchy way that doesn’t sound heavy-handed.
“We tried to design it so it wasn’t cold and unfriendly,” Custer explained.
For instance, smokers are reminded “don’t blow it.” Smoking is allowed on the beaches, but the pamphlets urge smokers to be respectful of nonsmokers and to properly dispose of their cigarette butts to reduce litter.
The pamphlets also address loud music, games, profanity, proper beach attire and drinking, along with a few other topics. Drinking alcohol is not allowed on the beach.
“Local police officers often walk the beach in plain clothing, so avoid a fine and leave all alcoholic beverages at home,” the pamphlets say.
Tighe suggested that police officers patrolling the beaches could hand out the pamphlets as a warning instead of issuing summonses for drinking.
A new phenomenon called “tent-spreading” also gets a mention in the pamphlets. In recent summers, some beachgoers have been monopolizing prime spots near the water by spreading out large tents, canopies or cabanas on the sand.
At a public hearing in November, Council members and local residents discussed ways to prevent tents and canopies from dominating the beachfront and blocking the views of the ocean. Some residents urged Council to impose an outright ban on tents or to restrict them to certain areas of the beach.
With really no support on Council to enact a ban at this point, the city has chosen to use the new pamphlets to educate the public about tents and cabanas.
“Tents can be intense,” the pamphlets say. “Be mindful of others when erecting tents and cabanas. They may provide shade, but large tents also block views of the ocean and access to the water’s edge.”
Tents and canopies are popular among parents to protect their children from sunburn and skin cancer. Late last year, Councilman Frank Edwardi said tents are also a way to prevent aggressive seagulls from swooping down and snatching food.