VENTNOR — In an effort to encourage fishermen to continue to cast their lines on the beach, the Board of Commissioners proposed an ordinance that would issue permits to allow 4-wheel-drive vehicles on the sand during the offseason.

An ordinance was introduced Aug. 17 to amend beach regulations to allow vehicles on the beach with a permit. A public hearing and final vote are scheduled for Sept. 19.

But the move could work against them, a local surf fisherman said.

Although Ventnor has traditionally allowed vehicles on the beach during the annual Atlantic County/Atlantic City Surf Fishing Derby, it will now charge a fee for permits, along with extending the 4-wheel-drive season to April 1.

This year's derby is scheduled to run Sept. 25 to Dec. 3.

Ed Berger, of Margate, who calls himself an “out-of-control surf fisherman,” said Ventnor would be the only community on Absecon Island to charge a fee for a vehicle sticker.

“It would be a shame to charge our participants a fee when they already pay $25 for their derby pin,” Berger said. “It’s a charity event, and all of the proceeds after expenses are distributed to local police organizations.”

After registering for the derby, surf fishermen bring their derby pins to the municipality to obtain a sticker for their vehicles that show they are paid participants.

Berger said Atlantic City, Ventnor, Margate and Longport have been supporting the derby without charging for as long as he can remember.

“Atlantic City doesn’t charge, Margate doesn’t charge, and up until now, Ventnor didn’t charge,” Berger said.

Brigantine's year-round 4-wheel-drive permit is $160 if purchased between Jan. 3 and Feb. 28, after which the fee jumps to $175. Seniors are charged $80 or $85 depending on when they are purchased.

It is likely Longport would not be hosting the derby this year because of the dune and beach replenishment project scheduled to take place there during the fall months.

The ordinance will issue 250 vehicle permits with proof of insurance and the signing of an indemnity agreement holding the city harmless for any claims or losses that might arise. Vehicles must pass state inspection and be equipped with certain safety devices, including a first-aid kit, shovel, tow chain, road flares, fire extinguisher, jack, flashlight and spare tire.

Vehicles will gain access to the beach only at Suffolk Avenue to prevent damage to the dune structure and can drive no more than 10 mph. Hours of operation will be 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. No cooking, sleeping or camping will be permitted, and fishermen may leave no trash or debris behind. Parties or events require prior approval of the city.

Vehicle permits are $100 for the season, which begins Sept. 25 and ends April 1. Vehicle permits for the duration of the Atlantic County/Atlantic City Surf Fishing Derby are $25.

The vehicle permit fee is separate from the derby registration fee, which is $25 and can be obtained at Ray Scott's Dock in Margate and Ship Shop in Ventnor, which also serve as weigh stations.

Berger has been helping Donald Brown organize the derby for eight years, although the tournament has been around for nearly 40 years.

“We do it to keep the beaches open and generate some foot traffic for the local bait and tackle shops,” Brown said.

“Anything a shore town can do that can bring people to the island is a good thing. These fishers go out for breakfast or Wawa before they hit the tackle shops in fall when business drops off," Berger said.

Berger said he would reach out to Ventnor commissioners to see whether the fee could be waived for derby participants.

Commissioner Tim Kriebel declined comment for this story but said he is willing to speak to event organizers.

At its discretion, the city can donate up to five permits to the VFW for use by active-duty military or their spouses.

Violations of the provisions of the ordinance carry a fine of up to $1,000, 90 days in jail or both.

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