Written by Dennis "DJ" Mikolay
Category: On The Horizon
Published: 29 June 2016
Deal, New Jersey, has beautiful beaches - but good luck actually getting to them. The affluent coastal community, which has a long history of subtly deterring public access to their beaches, is well known for being short on parking and high on demand. Unlike many Jersey Shore towns, Deal remains almost wholly residential; there is no boardwalk, promenade, or public concessions along the waterfront, which is populated primarily by multi-million dollar summer cottages. Thus, visitors who wish to enjoy the treasured coastline are presented with two options: 1) purchase a membership at the local beach club (a move that comes with a hefty price tag), or 2) try and fight for one of the few open spots available for on-street parking.
It’s a reality that has drawn the ire of surfers, fishers, and conservationists for decades, and it has only gotten worse lately. Remember, Deal’s beaches were just replenished by a federal government project: they are truly nicer than ever. Some residents, hoping to maximize their enjoyment of the town’s oceanfront without having to deal with pesky visitors, have sought to deter those from neighboring towns and states from using their beaches.
It’s a tragic irony; the nicer the beaches, the less people will likely be able to enjoy them. Every inch of government subsidized sand acts as an incentive to prevent visitors—be they “benny” or “local”—from reaping the benefits of their own tax dollars.
This debate became particularly heated last fall when a brazen proposal to restrict on-street parking to residents of the community resulted in fierce opposition. Most saw through this charade, a thinly veiled attempt to keep the masses from setting foot on the sand their taxes paid to replenish. The rationale, as presented by proponents of the restriction, was that there simply wasn’t enough parking to accommodate residents and visitors alike. Of course, the notion that Deal homeowners were somehow disadvantaged by the lack of parking spaces on the streets was absolutely without merit. Deal is, after all, the land of the mansion, and most of the “cottages” along the oceanfront have driveways larger than the average middle class house.
Besides, it wasn’t as though the oceanfront magically appeared one day without warning. Deal has always been known as a beach community, and almost all these residents purchased their summer homes well after the advent of the automobile. In other words, it shouldn’t have come as a shock that people would be parking along the ocean and using the beaches in the summer, as such was likely what incentivized these property owners to buy there in the first place.
Thankfully, in the wake of intense public criticism, the municipal government decided against the parking restrictions. It was a move near universally hailed as being appropriate…but the victory was rather short lived. Now, less than a year later, a “compromise” is in the works. On Wednesday, Deal’s municipal leaders will introduce a new ordinance, essentially a watered down version of that proposed last year, to issue parking permits to residents and restrict the public’s right to park to one side of the road. Essentially, this means the space available for non-residents to park for the beach will be cut in half.