BRICK – After Brick submitted a Beach Management Plan to US Fish & Wildlife for the protection of federal- and state-listed species, the organization came back and told the township to eliminate the use of beach buggies on township beaches entirely, said Mayor John G. Ducey during a recent council meeting.
Township engineer Elissa Commins met with the township Recreation Committee to discuss eliminating the four-wheel drive vehicles. She, along with the council, said they want to continue to allow the four-wheel drive vehicles on the beach.
The engineer came up with an agreement with US Fish & Wildlife that would save the program by shortening it by about 45 days.
Currently, beach buggies are allowed on township beaches from October 1 until April 30. The amended ordinance shortens the end date to March 15.
“We had to make some other concessions, which is to make assurances that no driving will occur in the plant-protected strips until November 30, and we also have to put up fences and signage to let people know that these types of plants are out there,” the mayor said.
The township will follow through with all of the recommendations so the program does not have to be shut down, he added.
Federal funding for the beach replenishment could be in jeopardy if Brick does not comply with US Fish & Wildlife restrictions, Ducey said.
Notification of the new rules would be part of the permitting process, and the township has to actively enforce it, he said.
A large part of the audience at the meeting were beach buggy enthusiasts who were not happy about the amended ordinance.
Jim Hutchinson was one of several residents who spoke during public comment. He said he believes many people move to Brick because the town and the governing body has “a certain libertarian point of view…I think this council and this township has always believed very strongly in individual liberties and personal responsibility.”
Hutchinson asked the council to suspend the vote on the amended beach buggy ordinance which he called a “gross overreach” by the Department of the Interior, who does not want beach driving, he said.
“This is a precedent-setting decision that you folks are making tonight that is going to spiral up and down the coast to other towns,” Hutchinson said. “Say no way. We’re going to protect those plants, we’re going to trust these folks that are in this room; personal responsibility to drive responsibly as we’ve always done along the beaches.”
Noticing that other members of the public wished to speak, Council President Vincent Minichino said, “We appreciate that you folks are all here, and we hear you.”
He said the amended ordinance would be tabled for another meeting or two so the governing body would have time to consider moving it forward or not.
A member of the audience, Bill Cooper, who said he works part-time for US Fish & Wildlife, recommended that the council put a committee of sportsmen together to meet with the governing body.
“There’s a lot of issues here,” he said. “We could meet with you guys and discuss the options…I would love to help you.”
The mayor said he likes the idea of forming a committee, but the committee should meet with US Fish & Wildlife.
“You don’t need to convince us; we’re not the ones,” he said. “US Fish & Wildlife is where we need citizens’ support.”
The next council meeting will be on Tuesday, August 23 at 7 p.m.