STONE HARBOR – Elaborate cabanas and canopies have sprung up along Stone Harbor’s beaches in recent summers. Because of that, Stone Harbor Borough Council has debated possible response.
The newest trend in beach shade has gone past the beach umbrella. Small tent cities sprang up on Jersey beaches, and some towns are moving to ban them.
To the north, Avon-by-the-Sea, Long Beach, Seaside Heights and most recently Belmar have passed ordinances that regulate or outright ban large tents.
As some communities restrict their use, tents have been concentrated in greater numbers in the towns that allow them.
That was one of the worries of Borough Council member Mantura Gallagher, who warned that another year without action in Stone Harbor would mean even larger numbers and concentrations of tents on the beaches in 2018.
The initial concern had been a public safety issue: were the concentrations of tents blocking the view of the water for lifeguards?
The desire of some to ban or at least regulate the tents quickly enlisted other arguments in favor of action.
The elaborate tents take up large swaths of the beach, something that in many towns has been called "beach spreading."
Those using the beaches are buying beach tags, not deeds was the nature of the sentiment.
Some see the concentrations of tents as unsightly as beachgoers move to link family and friends in directly adjacent canopies, some of which actually have closed sides.
Gallagher spoke of seeing laundry hanging from lines as tent enthusiasts settle in for the long haul supported by large coolers of food and drink.
Opponents also claim that the tents foster more drinking on the beach, a forbidden practice.
Council member Joselyn Rich, who chairs council's Natural Resources Committee, found room for agreement with Gallagher, arguing that some form of regulation was probably overdue.
Others, notably Council member Joan Kramar, saw no reason for the borough to interfere with this latest trend in beach enjoyment.
“This opens the beaches to people with health concerns,” Kramar said.
She referred to those for whom exposure to the sun is a health problem. She cited the benefits to mothers with babies who should not have prolonged exposure and the protection the canopies appear to offer against overly-aggressive seagulls when food is consumed.
In the end, there was not the depth of support for an outright ban on tents.
As to the matter of greater regulation, council debated the potential value of establishing locations away from the water line and out of the way of the guards.
They talked of requiring tents to have open sides, requiring a certain amount of space between tents and setting limits on canopy size.
Mayor Judith Davies-Dunhour warned that regulation needed careful consideration. “Enforcement can be a significant problem,” she said. No one wants to divert the attention of the guards from the water, and teenage tag checkers are not equipped to enforce regulations of this type.
The borough agreed to continue to monitor the situation. There will be no ban or regulations before the 2018 season.
Ordinances on behavior and drinking on the beaches will be enforced, but the tents will still be welcome.
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