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June 26, 2017

Wildwood announces glorious debut of on-beach parking lot

Beaches Parking
Wildwood Mark Auterson/PhillyVoice

Kites fly behind the Wildwoods sign at the Jersey Shore.

After a long drive through bumper-to-bumper traffic to reach the Jersey Shore, is there any feeling more crushing than having to cruise around town endlessly looking for a place to park within striking distance of your destination? 

Well, in Wildwood, you can soon say "screw it" and just park your car on the sand, provided you're willing to pay a fee for the convenience. 

Wildwood City Commissioners unanimously approved an ordinance Monday that will allow parking at an attended beach lot located at Baker Avenue. A pathway will tunnel under the boardwalk and stop on the beach side, where pounded sand will serve as the surface of a lot overseen by parking attendants.  

“Other Jersey beach resorts offer parking on the sand,” said Commissioner Pete Byron. “Wildwood’s world-famous beach is the perfect place to offer residents and visitors alike the opportunity to leave their vehicle on the sand while enjoying a day at the beach.”

As the official in charge of Wildwood's beach services and revenue department, Byron said the new lot will also become a major new stream of income for the city.

“Communities up and down the coast that offer on-beach parking have seen huge increases in their beach revenue,” Byron said. 

Parking on the Wildwood beach will be limited to four-wheel-drive vehicles only and will cost $10 for a daily pass. Special event parking will cost $20. 

In a perfect world, Byron said he's aiming for the lot to open by the second week of July. 

"Nature has put us behind on a couple of projects," Byron said, pointing to new beach walkways, storage boxes for beachgoers and the relocation of Wildwood's famed dog beach. The city is playing catch-up this season, but the incentive to get the beach lot up and running is immediate. 

In neighboring Atlantic County, Brigantine started on-beach parking in 2007. By 2014, Byron said, the town had raised more than $600,000 from the lot. 

"That’s a huge amount of money," Byron said. "For Wildwood taxpayers, $600,000 equals approximately 4 cents in tax savings per $100 of assessed value.” 

Byron said Wildwood Commissioners had been considering a beach lot for about two years, initially prompted by successful examples in Flordia and the Carolinas. When he looked at Brigantine, he saw how rapid growth in the lot's use had eventually translated to more revenue from parking than from beach tags. 

The size of Wildwood's beach, Byron added, should enable the city to accommodate more cars than other beaches, creating an even larger tax savings for property owners.

“Wildwood has a world-class beach,” Byron said. “We are continuing to make strides in offering even more amenities that will not only offer beachgoers a world-class experience but will produce new sources of sustainable income to help offset taxes. We remain focused on not only making our beach fun but also making it profitable for our taxpayers.”