October 21, 2022
It will be more expensive to sit on the beach in Ocean City next summer – in some instances twice as expensive – now that the city council unanimously voted raise the shore town's beach tag prices for 2023.
The move will increase revenue, which city officials said is needed to maintain Ocean City's 7-mile shoreline and pay its beach patrol. Frank Donato, the Ocean City's chief financial officer, said the town can no longer afford to delay a price increase as cleaning and maintenance costs rise.
Beginning next year, prices for Ocean City's seasonal beach tags will change from $25 to $35, for passes purchased June 1 or later. The town will continue to offer a discount on seasonal badges purchased before May 31, but that price will increase from $20 to $30. The cost of a seasonal beach tag in Ocean City has not changed since 2011.
For weekly and daily beach tags, prices will double. A weekly badge will cost $20; those had been $10 since 2007. Daily tags will cost $10, up from $5. The price of a daily beach tag had not changed since 2002.
In Ocean City, all beachgoers who are at least 12 years old, are required to have beach tags to be on the beach, while the lifeguards are on duty, from the first weekend in June through Labor Day weekend. Veterans and active military members can get free seasonal beach tags by showing valid identification. The families of active military members also are eligible for free badges.
The revenue earned through beach tag sales covers a variety of Ocean City's expenses, including covering the costs to collection trash and to rake the beach every morning, as well as pay the wages of lifeguards. The city's contract with the Ocean City Beach Patrol is due to be negotiated, and Council President Pete Madden said that expense is expected to rise.
In 2021, Ocean City earned an all-time high of $4.2 million in beach tag revenue, and this price hike is expected to top that, generating a much as $5.3 million in revenue to help maintain the shoreline. The city expected to earn $4 million in the 2022 shore season, but fell slightly short of that mark..
Despite the unanimous vote during Thursday night's meeting, much of the opposition from the public was about the expected price increase, with some people hoping for a different outcome.
"Doubling the daily fees and increasing weekly and seasonal tag prices is excessive and could make beach trips cost prohibitive for the working class family," said Susan Cracovaner, an Ocean City resident. "A daily trip for a family of four would now cost $20 more just to access the beach. Families also face increasing parking fees, increasing costs for food, and for boardwalk entertainment."
Cracovaner said she and other residents were concerned that if the daily beach tag increase was too high for families, they may opt to make less trips during the summer, go to beaches without fees, or stay home in order to save money.
Still, councilmembers remained confident that Ocean City visitors will be willing to pay the increased cost to use the beach, even in light of rising costs for other things, including food, entertainment, and shore lodging.
"When you look at the beach tag prices and the fact that they haven't been adjusted, I have more of an issue with that than I have with raising the fee," said Councilman Terry Crowley Jr. "I hear the comments around the daily fee going to what it is, but I would challenge you to go do anything for $10 a day. You can't go to the movies, you certainly can't go to a ball game. I think coming to the beach is a great thing and I think it's needed."
Councilman Jody Levchuk noted during the meeting that in conversations with Ocean City residents, many people have suggested increasing the seasonal beach tag fee even higher to provide that much-needed revenue, even in place of changing the daily and weekly tag price.
Ocean City Mayor Jay Gillian said the city will be tightening its enforcement of beach tags in the upcoming summer season in an effort to keep people from skipping tag checks. Members of City Council noted that they were willing to revisit the issue of raising prices if it has a negative impact on tourism.
At the beginning of October, the U.S. Army Corps' Philadelphia District awarded a $21.5 million contract to Great Lakes Dredge and Dock Company for periodic nourishment of the beach to reduce damage brought on by coastal storm events. Sand placement will occur on beaches from 14th Street to Seaview Road.
Seasonal beach tag prices at other South Jersey shore destinations include $33 in Avalon, $40 in Beach Haven, $25 in Brigantine, $30 in Cape May, $45 in Harvey Cedars, $30 in Longport, $20 in Margate, $25 in Sea Isle, $45 in Ship Bottom, $40 in Stone Harbor, $20 in Ventnor, and $45 in Surf City.
No other South Jersey shore towns are considering an increase in the cost of beach tags at this time. Those looking for free beaches can head over to Atlantic City or Wildwood.