By Tommy DeSeno, cross posted on Ricochet
My life is like a stroll upon the beach,
As near the ocean’s edge as I can go.
– Henry David Thoreau
I’m a son of a beach. Sand between my toes and white stuff on my nose. People have many different places they feel closest to God. Church comes to mind. Others enjoy the serenity of a garden, forest or mountain. I’m betting the ubiiquitous Dave Carter feels something for an open road. For me, sitting on a jetty with the waves lapping around me fills me with the Holy Spirit.
My absolute favorite time to go down the beach is just after sun up when it is truly hot and sunny – still over 80 degrees at sunrise. The ocean looks like it’s covered in diamonds and there is a sizzling sound when the wave breaks and crawls upon the sand. No tourists yet. Just me and my safe place until they get here.
By the way – “down the beach” – that’s a colloquialism used by beach boys. We never go “to the beach,” it’s always “down the beach.” There is at least a decade-long moratorium against newcomer assimilation should we hear you say “down the shore.” Never say “shore” if you want to fit in with the locals.
Despite the spiritual love we in New Jersey have for the sand and surf, our state is one of the few places in the world to charge people to walk on the sand to get to the ocean. Jersey strange. First we charge you $2 per hour to park next to the beach, then $8 per person to walk onto it.
The law is truly odd. The public has a right to the high water mark left by the ocean. Government can’t charge you for being there. The problem is, not even Carl Lewis on his best Olympic day could long jump the 75 or so yards of sand to get from the boardwalk to the high water mark. Land in the sand and you get arrested.
For sure there are places in New Jersey where you can get on the sand free of charge. But that’s a vestige of the “separate but equal” mindset of yesteryear, because as every local knows, you can’t go to just “any old beach.” Beaches are as personal to people as their undergarments, and held just as closely.
Don’t marry a beach girl or boy until you first work out which beach you’ll frequent. Some love waves. Some love little coves. Some want shade. My wife digs Avon-By-The-Sea since it’s a big family beach. I body surf in Asbury Park because there are at least a dozen venues where I can swill adult beverages right on the boardwalk. So we split our time between beaches. My wife and I treat our beaches like divorced parents treat their children – we get visitation every other weekend.
The point is, don’t tell me I can go miles away to a free beach I don’t like and all is the same. It’s like telling me to wear shoes that don’t fit. I can’t get comfortable.
The political debate that rages in New Jersey, as it now rages again, is not whether government should decide if you can swim. It is “which government” gets to decide if you can swim. Some lobby for state rule (big government monolithic solution) and the more conservative (so they claim) want “home rule” where each town gets to decide the rules.
I don’t know why there needs to be any rules. New Jersey towns will tell you they have to pay for life guards and beach cleanup, so they should get to charge for beach access.
I counter with Aruba. Bermuda. Cancun. Jamaica. Bahamas. Every state on America’s east coast. These are all places I’ve been where I didn’t have to pay a dime to park near the beach, walk on the sand or swim in the Ocean. All of them have governments that work, with taxes and costs of living far less than the Garden State. So, Mr. New Jersey Mayors – your excuse is sooooo bogus (said in my best Jeff Spicoli voice)!
How about MMM? What do you think? Let me pose a polling question that is fair, unloaded and in no way leads you to an answer I personally hope you give:
Should New Jersey towns honor the freedom and liberty that our Americanism promises since the time of our founding by making beaches free, or should they continue their neo-fascist, big government corruption by charging money for the God given right to shred a waive?