Updated: May 5
Don't let the name confuse you. Monmouth County's only beachfront park doesn't have that much do with presidents. This 38-acre park between the ocean and Ocean Avenue in Long Branch is better known for surfing, skate boarding and a place for kids and families.
More than 50 years surfers have ruled (or at least been allowed)
It's hard to imagine a time when people routinely smoked and drank at the beach but surfing was banned because it was considered too dangerous. In the early 1960s, surfing enthusiasts discovered the large, long waves off the jetty at the end of Kiernan Boulevard in Long Branch, buet they weren't allowed to use what was then a private beach. They did it any way. Acknowledging the challenges of trying to keep surfers out of the water, the land owner struck a deal that would allow the surfers to lease the beach for $1 a year, under the condition that they would patrol the beach, perform their own lifeguarding duties and keep it clean. The cost of providing insurance to protect the club owner was covered by charging each surfer a $20 annual membership fee, a fair amount in 1965. Thus, the Kiernan Surfing Association was born. The Association has long since dissolved, but their legacy lives on. Monmouth County Parks continues to set aside part of the beach for surfing.
A block from the beach is the Skateplex which the County opened in 2005 and significantly renovated in 2015. Last year, a second skating area was added, making it one of the premier public skating parks in New Jersey. The two different fenced-in areas offer floating ramps, stairs, planters and stainless steel grind rails while incorporating the existing bowl. Experienced skaters or novices are welcome, but users under 17 must wear a helmet. Bikes and scooters are not permitted.
For the younger kids, Tony's Place is an award-winning, universally accessible playground closer to the beach dunes. It's a joint venture of the County, Challenged Youth Sports and Friends of the Park.
Did the Presidents vacation at this site?
They may have walked, rode or driven by the site, but none of the seven presidents who visited Long Branch stayed in a home, apartment or hotel at the site. Read more about the seven presidents in a subsequent story about the Elberon section of Long Branch at www.thecitypulse.com/jerseyshorewalk.
But Buffalo Bill vacationed here, right? No way pardner!
Buffalo Bill wasn't a fan of the beach and the East Coast per a letter to a friend in 1896, writing "...country is good enough for me -- Every mans (sic) likes are not exactly the same -- I expect." Bill's business partner in Buffalo Bill's Wild West, Nate Salsbury, however, was a prominent developer who favored Long Branch. In 1900, Salsbury built nine mansions or "cottages" on the site of Seven
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Presidents Park. It was called The Reservation and promoted as an upscale seasonal rental community. Eventually, the houses became run-down, and the city of Long Branch razed all of them except for one home that is used as the park's administrative offices. The County took over the property in 1977 to create its only beach park.
Bill did bring his shows to Long Branch on two occasions. On June 5, 1899, Long Branch was a stop on the tour of Buffalo Bill's Wild West and Congress of Rough Riders of the World show at an empty lot at "Riverside and Atlantic avenue", presumably not at The Reservation or on prime beachfront property. A truncated version of that show, Buffalo Bill's and Pawnee Bill's Great Far East Show, arrived for one day on June 8, 1909.
Everyone's favorite stop after the beach
Tips for Visiting Seven Presidents Oceanfront Park
What's New: It's open all year (unlike last year)! The new addition to the Skateplex opened late last year.
Road Access & Parking: Just south of Monmouth Beach there are two access points from Ocean Avenue, one by the Skateplex and one at the stoplight at Joline Avenue. There are about 1000 parking spaces with the main lot holding 700. Parking is free most of the year. There is a fee on weekends from May 29 to June and daily from June 19 through Labor Day. The cost of a season parking pass is $75 and can be purchased at the county site or on site during Memorial Weekend. A pass does not guarantee a space. The daily parking fee is $10. Parking does NOT include access to the beach.
Amenities: There are outdoor showers and changing areas, guarded swimming sections, an award winning children's playground, designated areas for surfing, a snack bar, sheltered eating areas, volleyball area and the Skateplex. Through the county's park website, visitors can reserve a picnic tent for up to 50 people.
Beaches: Similar to the parking, the beach is free most of the year. Separate from the parking fee, a beach season pass is $75 and can be purchased at the county site or on site during Memorial Weekend. The daily beach access fee is $8. On the beach side, the demarcation is not clear from Monmouth Beach to the north or the main Long Branch. A beach badge/pass at one beach is not good at other beaches in Monmouth Beach or other parts of Long Branch. Pets are not allowed from April 1 to October 31 at the beach and never in the rest of the park. People 17 years and under and actively military are admitted free. The season pass for people 65 years and older is $30.
Skateplex: Free year round. People under 17 years old must wear a helmet. See parking guidelines above.
This spring, summer and fall, follow Jersey Shore author and expert R.C. Staab as he walks the entire 139 miles of the Jersey Shore from Sandy Hook to Island Beach State Park, from Old Barney to Beach Haven, from Brigantine to Cape May.
Next stop: Long Branch's main beach between Miles 12 and 14. See all the Jersey Shore Walk stories at www.JerseyShoreWalk.com