By Donald Wittkowski
There were times this summer when parts of Sea Isle City’s beaches resembled an oceanfront campground.
Large tents, canopies and cabanas were spread out across swaths of sand as sunbathers jockeyed for prime spots just steps from the water.
City Council President Mary Tighe said there is a term for this phenomenon.
“It’s labeled ‘tent-spreading,’” she said. “Part of the issue is they take up too much space.”
Now that the summer of 2017 is coming to a close, Tighe wants to have a public discussion this fall on tent-spreading and other key issues to see if there are ways Sea Isle could improve beach etiquette for the 2018 vacation season.
Smoking on the beach and the digging of deep holes in the sand are other activities Tighe believes should get a public airing.
“I don’t want anyone to think we’re not going to talk about or address them,” she said during City Council’s meeting on Tuesday.
Tighe told her fellow Council members that she received several recent emails from the public urging the city to consider banning tents, smoking and the digging of holes on the beach. Digging holes is a popular activity among children building sand castles.
She suggested the best way to handle the complaints is have government officials, the police department, the city’s beach patrol and the public kick around some ideas sometime in the fall, most likely at a Council meeting.
“My initial reaction is, I’m not a big proponent of banning everything on the beach,” Tighe said, indicating that she is open to compromise.
In the meantime, she wants to share the emails she received with the Council members and Mayor Leonard Desiderio’s administration to get their reactions.
Council members seemed receptive to having a public discussion on beach behavior, but it was clear from some of their comments during Tuesday’s meeting that they do not support an outright ban on some activities.
Councilman Frank Edwardi said he was “all for” keeping the tents on the beach because they provide shelter from aggressive, food-snatching seagulls.
“I just don’t want to limit our beachgoers by taking something away,” Edwardi said.
Council discussed the possibility of setting aside sections of the beach for tents. There have been complaints about tents blocking the view of the ocean or blowing free in the wind, causing a safety hazard.
“I’ve seen the tents flip, and just like with the umbrellas, it’s a little scary,” Tighe said.
Some tent owners are able to monopolize prime real estate by rushing out to the beach early in the morning and grabbing spots near the high-tide mark, according to Dan Tumolo, a resident who also serves as president of Sea Isle’s Board of Education. He wants the city to create designated areas for tents.
“The problem is, when you and I go down to the beach, our view is blocked off because the tents are there,” Tumolo told the Council members at Tuesday’s meeting.
In addition to tent-spreading, Tighe said city officials and the public should also discuss whether there should be any restrictions for smoking on the beach and the digging of holes.
Deep holes are often dug by children as part of their sand-sculpting, but they are not always covered up when they leave, creating a hazard for other beachgoers.
Councilman William Kehner noted that smoking on the beach has been another source of complaints, particularly cigar odor.