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Free access to Island Beach State Park causing concerns of traffic backups for July 4 weekend

The concerns from residents two weeks ago were of overflowing traffic into the surrounding towns, which could cause Berkeley Township and Seaside Park to stress their resources to handle the larger than expected crowds.

News 12 Staff

Jul 1, 2022, 12:26 PM

Updated 722 days ago

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Free access to Island Beach State Park in Berkeley Township is causing concerns about traffic backups once the parking lots quickly fill up this Fourth of July weekend.
The concerns from residents two weeks ago were of overflowing traffic into the surrounding towns, which could cause Berkeley Township and Seaside Park to stress their resources to handle the larger than expected crowds.
This weekend should be the first big test of that theory.
Many residents made their way to the beaches Thursday night, with nonstop traffic on main roads like the parkway and Route 35.
Friday morning began to see the first beachgoers streaming into the shore to jumpstart the extended weekend.
Mike Jurusz, who runs Atlantic Bar and Grill next to the busy entrance of Island Beach State Park, told News 12 New Jersey that he has not seen issues so far from the free access.
"Since the season started, I have not seen one traffic jam or any backup," Jurusz said. "It's real simple. When you don't have to pay, there is no wait. When you pay, you're doing the transaction…so it backs up the traffic all the way down the block."
Other business owners, like John Bushell of Betty and Nick's Bait and Tackle, said they don't expect any problems even after the lots fill up.
"No traffic issues at all, and it's pretty much what I expected, even though you are getting the beaches for free, you're only allowed a certain amount of people on the beaches to begin with," Bushell said.
Some homeowners, however, say they're holding their breath.
"There was no preparation, there was no notification, so restaurants, just small businesses are going to be impacted and parking. What happens when this fills up? And you've travel from Connecticut or New York. What happens?” asked Seaside Park resident Theresa Neher.
A spokesperson from the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection told News 12 New Jersey that as of this weekend, Island Beach was not experiencing demand that was significantly higher than in recent summers. They added that any town that's concerned about high traffic volume should send a written request to their office.


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