Weather put a damper on 2013 beach revenues

Staff Writer

 A rainy summer meant there were fewer sunny days for beachgoers to enjoy Long Branch beaches, causing a decline in badge sales.  STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER ERIC SUCAR A rainy summer meant there were fewer sunny days for beachgoers to enjoy Long Branch beaches, causing a decline in badge sales. STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER ERIC SUCAR LONG BRANCH — After closing the books on the 2013 beach season, both Sea Bright and Long Branch took a dip in beach revenues.

Sea Bright officials put the blame for a $128,000 decline in beach badge sales on superstorm Sandy. However, Long Branch and county officials said respective declines of 5 percent and 3 percent in 2013 beach revenues was due to a rainy June.

“We’re way off,” Sea Bright Councilman Read Murphy said on Sept. 19. “We didn’t have the preseason sales because people didn’t expect us to be up and running, and people weren’t in town.”

According to Murphy, the borough collected $195,560 in daily badge sales in 2013, down from last year’s $294,244.

The borough also took a hit on seasonal badge sales in 2013, down to $19,230 from $27,295 in 2012.

The total for preseason sales was $46,175 in 2013, down from $68,120 in 2013.

For Murphy, the biggest factor in the decrease in revenue was the lack of beach parking.

“I didn’t have the daily sales because I have no place to park [beachgoers],” he said, adding that there were only 230 parking spaces after Sandy, as opposed to the usual 470.

While badge sales were down, Murphy said the borough beaches were not significantly smaller because of storm erosion. However, lifeguard stands and other equipment were destroyed during the storm.

He said the sand that was carried off the beaches by winds and storm surges was cleaned and spread back on the beaches.

“We’ve got a lot of work to do this winter,” he said. “We have a lot problems with open areas.”

The borough will benefit this year from a federally funded beach replenishment project, which will be completed prior to the 2014 beach season.

While Long Branch beach revenues also took a hit in 2013, Finance Director Ronald Mehlhorn Sr. said the city is happy with the total badge sales.

“It was down about 5 percent, which is great,” he said. “We cut the revenue anticipated in the budget by about 20 percent, so it is actually coming in more than we expected.”

According to Mehlhorn, the city took in approximately $1.7 million in beach revenues, falling about $100,000 short of last year’s record-setting year.

Mehlhorn said he is happy with the revenue figures, despite not reaching last year’s $1.8 million revenue mark.

He said the main factor in the decreased revenues was the weather, not the impact of superstorm Sandy.

“It was really a great year with all that bad weather taken into account,” Mehlhorn said. “It was the weather that did it.”

Prior to the Memorial Day weekend kickoff to the beach season, there were questions as to how many of the city’s 15 beaches would have public access. However, temporary access was restored to all beaches by the middle of June.

Mehlhorn said the lower revenues are still a positive because there was a time when many beach openings were in question.

“Being down 5 percent from the record — that’s a great year,” he said. “You have to remember, after the storm and months into 2013, we didn’t even know what beaches we were going to open.”

Carl Jennings, the city’s recreation director, said in a Sept. 20 interview that he is also happy with the beach revenue figures for 2013.

“We didn’t reach the numbers that we reached last year, and last year we broke a record,” he added.

According to Jennings, there was some concern that the city’s beaches wouldn’t even be open this summer, since the superstorm destroyed the boardwalk, its supporting bluff and many public access points.

“The mayor, the department of public works and myself walking the beaches — we were very discouraged, thinking there was not going to be a beach year,” he said. “Because of the work of [the department of] public works and our beach staff, we put it together and we had a phenomenal season.”

Jennings said some of the damage to infrastructure resulting from the storm contributed to the down revenue.

The city will also benefit from the federal beach replenishment project, which will stretch from Sandy Hook to Manasquan Inlet. The project will begin this fall and conclude prior to the 2014 beach season.

Andrew Spears, superintendent of the Monmouth County Park System, said the county took in $1.04 million in revenues from badge sales and parking at Seven President’s Park in Long Branch in 2013, down 3 percent from last year.

“We attribute it to weather and the economy,” he said.