Manasquan officials made the decision to open access to the areas east of the bridges to the beach in an attempt to restore normalcy to the borough, although some residents are concerned that the decision may have been made too soon.
Office of Emergency Management Director Dave Kircher, police Chief Elliott Correia, Administrator Joe DeIorio and others spoke about the decision to lift the restrictions that have been in place since superstorm Sandy battered the beachfront more than a month ago during the governing body's work session Monday night.
"The area has been made safe," Kircher said.
Eight National Guardsmen continue to patrol the beachfront while curfews remain in place from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m., at least for this week. Several residents said the presence of the Guardsmen is welcome while Borough Council members cautioned that they have no power to require the Guard to remain in Manasquan after this week.
Kircher and DeIorio said the decision to allow access wasn't made unilaterally. Instead, department heads, the police, borough administration and the OEM discussed the possibilities and potential issues that could arise from returning residents as well as gawkers and decided to err on the side of access.
"It wasn't a decision we made lightly," Correia said. "It seemed to go without a problem."
DeIorio promised residents, who suggested closing access on weekends, that "we are monitoring this on a daily basis." Kircher said he did not believe the borough would have any cause to restrict access again.
"I truly believe we've made the right decision," Kircher said. "The people who live down there will be better for this, not worse."
Correia said having the beach largely closed had a negative impact on residents who have a "huge emotional tie-in to the beach."
Kircher agreed. "The sooner the better to get back to normalcy. People can get back on with their lives."
However, Councilwoman Patricia Connolly and Councilman Joseph Bossone said they had received feedback from residents concerned that access should have been restricted a bit longer, while resident Mary Ryan said the decision makes beachfront residents feel "much more vulnerable."
Ryan said increased traffic and the possibility of gawkers hurts beachfront residents' efforts to begin to get on with their lives.
"People are putting their lives on the curbside," she said, and urged council to restrict access on weekends so "residents feel comfortable and respected."
"It's an unprecedented event that's touched everyone."
Ryan otherwise lauded the efforts of the borough and its volunteers who helped Manasquan recover from Sandy.
"I am so proud to be a member of this community... you couldn't help but feel wonderful about the way we worked together."
For the latest Hurricane Sandy coverage from Manasquan-Belmar Patch visit our topic page here.