Chamber asks members for their take on beach fees

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file photo by Jen Marra /
Beachgoers enjoy the sand and sun in Wildwood last summer. It’s possible that blanket space will cost money in the future, as Wildwood voters will be asked in March whether to require beach tags for the first time. 

file photo by Jen Marra / Beachgoers enjoy the sand and sun in Wildwood last summer. It’s possible that blanket space will cost money in the future, as Wildwood voters will be asked in March whether to require beach tags for the first time.

 WILDWOOD — The issue of beach fees in Wildwood may have caused many residents and organizations to take a stance one way or the other, but the Greater Wildwood Chamber of Commerce has kept quiet.

That will be the case until the business group hears from as many of its more than 600 members as possible through an email survey, said GWCOC executive director Tracey DuFault.

“We speak for 600-plus members,” DuFault said. “So my personal opinion doesn’t really matter. We have to hear from our membership before we take any stance on the issue.”

Since Commissioners passed a resolution this month that would ask the city's registered voters to decide if Wildwood beaches should remain free or adopt beach fees in a referendum scheduled for March 5, DuFault said that the chamber has gotten a lot of phone calls.

“We’ve heard from residents, businesses and tourists asking what our opinion is,” she said. “We like to talk with numbers and facts ahead of us and not just stomp our feet.”

DuFault said that in order to form an informed opinion, the chamber decided to reach its membership through an emailed survey regarding beach fees.

The chamber’s survey asks the following:

Are you a business owner, resident and voter, second homeowner, tourist?

What town do you have your business, home, second home or vacation in? Are you in favor of beach fees?

Are you in favor of beach fees?

Are you in favor of beach fees if other towns, such as Wildwood Crest and North Wildwood, implement them?

Do you need more information on beach fees?

Do you have any additional comments regarding beach fees?

DuFault said that the results started coming in as soon as the email was sent. So far, she said, the majority, over 70 percent, of the people taking the survey don’t want beach fees in Wildwood or in the neighboring communities.

According to DuFault, the survey results said that 60.2 percent of people are business owners, 14.4 percent are voting residents and 13.2 are second homeowners. About 50 percent of those people taking the survey either have businesses or homes in Wildwood.

She added that 83 percent of the survey takers indicated that they didn’t need additional information.

“We’ve been getting some good comments too, such as ‘one of the main reasons people come to Wildwood is the free beaches’ and ‘we have a wonderful marketing campaign that utilizes Wildwood’s free beaches,’” DuFault said.

She added that one of the people surveyed indicated that they were concerned that with so many northern shore communities hurt by Hurricane Sandy, Wildwood was going to gouge prices and try and capitalize on a busier-than-usual tourism season.

“A lot of people commented that it was a quick fix,” DuFualt added.

DuFault said that the survey was set to run until Jan. 18 and sent to chamber members.

“We’re not really doing a compilation of tourists’ opinions,” she said. “This survey’s purpose it to figure out the feeling among our membership.”

Once the data are compiled, DuFault said the chamber would be willing to present their findings to the city, the Greater Wildwoods Tourism Improvement and Development Authority, the Wildwoods Hotel Motel Association and other local organizations interested in the chamber’s survey results.

DuFault said that the chamber would also like to see a business plan

“There have been an awful lot of numbers thrown around from how much beach fees can generate to how much it will cost to implement them,” she said. “Where are these numbers coming from? I think we’d all like to see a business plan that shows in detail the beach fee business plan.”

City Commissioners told residents that the rising cost of maintaining the city’s growing beaches and a $1.6 million hole in the budget was the reason they were asking resident to consider beach fees to bring in revenue.

According to Mayor Ernie Troiano said that the cost of maintaining the beach is close to $2 million.

Additionally, Troiano said the city had expected a $1.6 million in a lease agreement in last year's $24.4 million budget. The lease was with Eastern Exchange, LLC for a boardwalk building and portion of the beach, but the contract had to be rescinded after a group of city residents presented petitions challenging the lease of 4101 Boardwalk, commonly called the monster truck building.

Without that money from the lease of the boardwalk property the city has a $1.6 million hole in its budget.

Commissioner Pete Byron, who oversees the department of revenue and finance, said that he expects beach fees to bring in around $1.2 million the first year.

According to Byron, the cost of maintaining the program would be approximately $350,000. The city would lose an additional $225,000 in funding from the Greater Wildwoods Tourism Improvement and Development Authority.

Because the beaches in the Wildwoods have always been free, the idea of beach tags has been a polarizing issue, especially between business owners and residents. However, voting residents will have the final say on March 5.

Lauren Suit 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 shorenewstoday.com.


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