By Lauren Wanko
Five-year old Nico Cordova loves collecting seashells on Ideal Beach in Middletown. The water is his favorite part of the beach.
But this summer, Nico can’t go swimming here because beachgoers aren’t allowed to swim at Middletown’s two beaches, a first for the Monmouth County community.
“We are concerned that there still may be some debris in the water and I know the DEP has been doing a great job across the state of cleaning out the waterways, it’s really a massive job, but we’re not 100 percent sure that the bay is clean and we would hate for somebody to go swimming and have some debris,” explained Middletown Mayor Gerry Scharfenberger.
Scharfenberger calls both Leonardo and Ideal Beaches the jewels of Middletown. The beaches will remain open to the public, but the township chose not to hire the four lifeguards who typically monitor swimmers in the Raritan Bay.
“It’s very unfortunate and it took a lot of soul searching but we felt it was the best for everyone’s safety and well being that we err on the side of caution,” said Scharfenberger.
Nico’s Mom, Middletown resident Lisa Cordova, isn’t surprised by the no-swimming policy.
“I don’t think that it’s an overreaction,” she said. “I think that there is a possibility for somebody to get hurt, I pulled out a piece of metal from the beach at.”
“We have a lot of shore line, we have a lot of inlets too, creeks that go inland, the amount of debris that’s been pulled out there so far is staggering, tons and tons of debris everything from refrigerators to bikes to docks. ” added Scharfenberger.
Still, Cordova is disappointed, saying “this is our backyard, we’re a block away, we swim here, we hang out here with our families and our friends.”
Others don’t agree with the swimming ban.
“I don’t think they should be able to tell you whether you can swim or not and they should probably look for everything first before they make a decision,” said Middletown Resident Brian George. “If they went out in low tide, they’d be able to figure it out real fast.”
Middletown resident and grandfather John Rahill lives across the street from Ideal Beach.
“It’s a real killer because both children are water bugs, I take them out there all the time,” he said.
Middleton’s mayor expects the Army Corps of Engineers to begin a project on the beach by mid to late summer, another factor that’s contributed to the no-swimming policy.
“We’re very happy that the Army Corps has agreed and has gotten the funding to undertake a beach replenishment and a dune repair, a dune replacement project, that’s gonna extend from Keansburg down to PewsCreek in Middletown and we don’t want anything to hold that up,” said Scharfenberger.
For now, folks can sit here on the beach, soak in the rays, and enjoy the views of the water. The mayor expects swimmers will be allowed back in the Bay by next summer.