By Maddy Vitale
Tom and Maureen Ryan, of Downingtown, Pa., stopped by City Hall in Ocean City over Black Friday weekend.
“We are buying our seasonal beach tags,” Tom Ryan said.
The Ryans, who have a vacation home in Ocean City, were down to do some shopping and visit with friends and decided to purchase their 2019 tags.
“We usually buy them online,” Maureen Ryan noted. “We were here and figured we should just get them in person.”
Shirley Moore, who works in City Hall, handed the tags to the Ryans and said, “Beach tag sales are starting to pick up. It is really getting busy.”
While the Ryans were buying the tags to use when they come down to their home on the south end of the island, others purchased the seasonal beach tags as gifts.
“They make great stocking stuffers,” said Nancy Neal who works in the Roy Gillian Welcome Center.
Neal said on average, during the holidays, she sells a couple of bags of beach tags a day totaling over 50 badges.
“Today, we already sold 18,” she said at about 10:30 a.m. Saturday morning. “Once the holiday season starts, people ask when they will go on sale. We sell a lot, but I think City Hall even sells more.”
Neal said buying the tags ahead of the season gives people the convenience of avoiding the summer lines to purchase the tags.
Seasonal tags will be sold at a discounted price of $20 through May 31, 2019. After that date, the price goes up to $25.
Frank Donato, the city’s chief financial officer, said during the Ocean City Regional Chamber of Commerce’s annual Business Summit in October that beachgoers are taking advantage of seasonal tags.
In 2018, the city sold the most seasonal beach tags – a little over 119,000 – since 2011, Donato said.
“Preseason sales were the best they’ve been in a while, indicating we were off to a good start and people were making their commitment early to visit and stay in Ocean City this summer,” he said during his remarks at the business summit.
In addition, with Ocean City having the most second homeowners in the state – at 14,000 — visitors like the Ryans were eager to get a jump on their season passes to the beaches.
Ocean City reaped nearly $4 million in beach tag sales in 2018. The all-time high of nearly $4.2 million in beach tag revenue came in 2015.
Ocean City annually leads all New Jersey shore towns in beach tag sales because of its sheer size. The city’s 7-mile-long beachfront is much bigger than neighboring towns, allowing it to handle enormous summer crowds that can swell to about 150,000 people, compared to the year-round population of 11,700.
Beach tag revenue covers the cost of keeping the beaches clean, employing lifeguards, hiring summer police officers and paying for the city’s share of beach replenishment projects in partnership with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.