Nobody goes there anymore, it’s too crowded. This popular saying that captures the unfortunate fate of many successful places was beginning to apply to the Cove beach in Brigantine.
What started as a sun and fun place where locals took their 4x4 vehicles or small boats drew greater numbers year after year. The number of vehicle permits doubled over several years to about 6,000.
Crowds exceeded the capacity of public services to handle their trash and behavior. Last summer, the noise and drinking were sometimes too much for local residents. There were too many fights and even a bomb threat.
City officials responded decisively.
Mayor Andy Simpson went to the Cove and talked to just about everyone, telling them what needed to happen and what they should do to ensure the beach stays open and enjoyable for everyone.
After the summer, City Council responded with an ordinance enabling Brigantine to restore the order that is a precondition of a good time for any crowd. Under the law, this year city police and officials were authorized to check coolers 36 quarts and larger (or with a 24-inch side) for quantities of alcohol. They can also limit access to the Cove or even close it in response to overcrowding or conditions deemed unsafe or impeding law enforcement.
The city also increased the size of its police patrols — formerly just two officers — and added a lot more trash receptacles. Cans were placed along the shore so no one had to walk more than 100 feet to use one, more than a dozen more awaited at the exit and a dumpster at Seaside Road served those packing out their garbage (often in bags provided by permit checkers).
City workers on small vehicles emptied trash cans during the day and two trucks from Atlantic City came over throughout the day to haul garbage away.
That’s more effort and more costly, to be sure, but worth it for everyone. Users helped handle the increased costs by paying more for their permits to drive on the beach — $25 more (to $200) if they bought them before March 1, and $100 more if purchased in season.
The summer’s perennially most crowded weekend, the Fourth of July, tested Brigantine’s new approach and it passed with flying (presumably patriotic) colors.
Deputy Mayor Vince Sera said the work of multiple city departments was matched by the better effort of the visitors to the Cove. “I think this is one of the best Fourth of July weekends we’ve ever had,” he said.
Good to see a local government on top of its responsibilities and taking the initiative to make improvements when needed.