|This year's crop of Brigantine beach tags. I'm geezer Nr 1156 this year.|
One of the enduring rites of spring is to hot-foot it down to the city beach tag office before the 1st of June in order to buy one's seasonal beach tags at the pre-season rate ($15 smackers apiece this year). After the 31st of May the price jumps to $18/tag for the inattentive. The opportunity to buy the tags at a reduced fee is available to all, but basically a good will gesture by the City to residents. Out of towners rarely arrive before the price hike. Seniors (65 and over), including your geezer diarist, get a free tag, as do active duty service members and their immediate family. Some New Jersey towns, notably Cape May, extend free tags to veterans as well. My island is a little behind the curve on that last item.
I well remember the days when we swam for free. Early attempts to impose a fee to use the beach were met with derision and noncompliance by the town folk. However, those were the days of "swim at your own risk" with life guards at only a few of the most popular locations along the island's Atlantic Ocean side. With growing crowds coming to the beach, New Jersey communities were not only forced to increase life guard coverage but also had to shoulder the increased costs for beach clean up, and toilet facilities. Faced with a choice of higher real estate taxes or a user fee, most municipalities opted for beach tags as the best way to pay for it all. By the mid-1970s beach tags started becoming more and more common up and down the Jersey coast. Now, tags are almost universal. Atlantic City is still a major hold out. No beach tags are required for access to the sand or water. I assume casino gambling helps defray the costs. Beach tags are mostly associated with New Jersey. One wonders how other states and their communities handle the costs?