Other towns in the Wildwoods skeptical on beach fees

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While the city of Wildwood won’t have a decision on whether to implement beach fees until after its referendum in March, neighboring municipalities have already begun to question how the decision will affect the island’s tourism.

“We’ve always been a tourist town, and free beaches, that’s always been our niche,” said Mayor Bill Henfey of North Wildwood. “I am concerned that it will affect the whole island.”

Henfey said his greatest concern was that tourists might not be aware that beaches in North Wildwood and the Crest will remain free, even if Wildwood implements fees.

“This will be a major change to our advertising theme,” he said, noting that the Greater Wildwoods Tourism Improvement and Development Authority had always marketed the free beaches in the Wildwoods to potential visitors.

“I know a lot of other beaches have them, but free beaches are a theme for GWTIDA,” Henfey added.

The referendum is headed to Wildwood voters on March 5. Mayor Ernie Trioano has said that this move is to help balance the city’s budget and create more revenue. Last year’s has a $1.6 million hole because the lease of the city’s monster truck building and beach property was forced to be rescinded after a group of residents petitioned the ordinance. Commissioner Pete Byron, who oversees the city’s revenue and finance, has said that beach fees could bring more than $1.2 million in to the city budget.

Despite the argument from Wildwood officials, Henfey explained that many people on the island were also worried that beach fees could impact the economy of the boardwalk. If visitors will have to spend money on tags, they may not spend at boardwalk shops, he said.

If this measure passes, Henfey said he and City Council will begin preparing for a greater influx of visitors from Wildwood to the free beaches of North Wildwood.

“We’ll have to be more diligent with trash, we could have to hire another seasonal police officer to patrol the beaches during the day,” he said. “We’ll have to just watch and see.”

As for beach fees appearing in North Wildwood, Henfey said that the beaches will remain free in the city, and explained that he had always imagined that revenue from parking meters had created a similar income to that of beach tags.

He said to keep revenue from parking up, he and the city had installed kiosks that visitors could pay at, and the city had remained diligent in repairing broken meters. By doing so, Henfey said that revenue from parking had climbed to about $800,000 for the city of North Wildwood.

“I’ve always considered the cost of parking to be our beach fees,” Henfey said.

Officials in Wildwood Crest also say that the borough is not interested in implementing any beach fees, but said it was too soon to tell how it could affect the island if Wildwood chose to do so.

“The board of commissioners and I have no interest in pursuing beach fees,” Kevin Yecco, borough administrator for the Crest, said. He added that the decision was “the business of the city of Wildwood.”

Yecco also said it was too premature to tell if the decision could send more visitors to the Crest.

“We’ll be fully prepared for this season whether there is an increase of visitors or not,” Yecco said.

Christie Rotondo can be emailed at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it or you can comment on this story at www.shorenewstoday.com.

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