Star News 7/16/2011

Point Beach’s Casey Loundy began push for free beach access for military families two years ago

By Molly Mulshine

POINT PLEASANT BEACH — Resident Casey Loundy saw more than two years’ worth of work come to fruition when Gov. Chris Christie signed a bill into law on Tuesday that allows Shore towns to provide active-duty military personnel and their immediate families free or discounted beach access.

Ms. Loundy, who is set to begin her second year of college in the fall, began the movement to provide military members with free beach access after a high school project prompted her to look into her family’s history.

“I did a school project in my junior year [of high school] on my grandfather, who served in World War II,” Ms. Loundy said. “He used to let people stay at his boardinghouse and eat free in his restaurant who were serving in the military, and I figured I should be doing something, too, in honor of him.”

Her grandfather, Sidney Loundy, passed away before she was born, Ms. Loundy said.

Ms. Loundy approached the borough council in Seaside Heights first, in 2009, when she was a junior in high school. She presented her plan to give free beach access to military members and their families.

“It took off in every town from Seaside Park to Point Beach” shortly after, Ms. Loundy said.

She began visiting towns in Monmouth County, as well, and found that governing bodies in every town were supportive of the idea.

“In a lot of the towns, I would go to the meeting and they would sign the resolution right there, right as it was proposed,” Ms. Loundy said.

Now, 13 municipalities — more than 25 percent of the 47 Shore towns in New Jersey — have allowed free military beach access via ordinance thanks to Ms. Loundy’s efforts.

These town include Seaside Park, Seaside Heights, Lavallette, Bay Head, Point Pleasant Beach, Sea Girt, Manasquan, Belmar, Island Beach State Park, Mantoloking, Ocean City, Neptune, Asbury Park, Highlands, Spring Lake and Berkeley.

Many of these towns offer not only free or discounted beach access to members of the military and their families, but also discounts at local businesses.

Ms. Loundy donates signs advertising military discounts to businesses that offer lower prices to military members. She estimates that she has distributed hundreds of the signs to businesses up and down the coast

Ms. Loundy has been adamant about providing free or discounted beach access not only to military members but also to the their families.

Military families are “the ones being affected, I feel, the most,” she said. “The soldiers are fighting, and [people] think about the soldiers putting their lives at risk for us, but the families are taking a huge toll, and it’s very hard on them.”

Granting them free beach access is a small way to thank them for this sacrifice, she said.

Ms. Loundy first heard of the possibility of her initiative becoming law when she was contacted by Sen. Christopher Conners [R-9], of Forked River, more than one year ago.

Sen. Conners was one of the primary sponsors of the bill, which passed in the Senate and was waiting in the Assembly for quite some time before its passage on Tuesday, Ms. Loundy said.

Ms. Loundy called the governor’s signing of the bill right before the Fourth of July “perfect.”

“I’m just happy that it’s passed [in time] for summer,” Ms. Loundy said.

Mayors of the towns Ms. Loundy approached said they were happy to see the bill become a law.

“I’m in support of what Casey did, and I’m glad to see it happen,” said Mayor Vincent Barrella, of Point Pleasant Beach. “I’m glad to see it happen ... What she was doing made sense.”

Point Pleasant Beach was “in a unique position” in enacting the ordinance two years ago, Mayor Barrella said, because the borough does not own its beaches — instead, private entities do.

“We can ask that the beaches be made available free of charge to military, but that decision is really, for the most part, resting in the private entities that own our beaches,” Mayor Barrella said Wednesday.

Ms. Loundy is aware beaches owned by boardwalk restaurant and amusement businesses Martell’s and Jenkinson’s are free for military members and their families, she said.

Belmar Mayor Matt Doherty said Wednesday he was also happy to see the law enacted.

Providing military members and their families with free beach access is “something we’re proud to do, and we would encourage every other beach community to do the same,” he said.

Sen. Fred Madden [D-4], who represents Gloucester and Camden counties, is another sponsor of the bill

“We can never truly repay our debt to those who are defending our freedoms day in and day out,” Sen. Madden said this week. “At the very least, though, we can provide our servicemen and women with a small token of appreciation by allowing them to access our beaches for free or at a discounted rate.”

Previous law explicitly permitted municipalities to offer a beach badge discount to individuals aged 65 and older, and individuals who are considered disabled by the Federal Social Security Act criteria. Existing law also provided that children less than 12 years old were not charged a beach access fee.

The bill passed the Senate by a vote of 39-0 and cleared the Assembly, 74-0-1, Sen. Madden reported. The law takes effect immediately.