Driving south from Seaside Park, signs reference Berkeley Township but most people know the township from its much large land mass near the Garden State Parkway. In South Seaside Park, there's no town to speak of. And half of this half-mile stretch of beach is private and doesn't allow daily access to the beach or permit on-street parking to anyone who isn't an association member. It's a tiny, quirky place that was the unfortunate scene last year of a tragedy.
New Lightning Detection System coming
In late August last year, a quick, strong summer late afternoon storm suddenly hit the small section of South Seaside Park where Berkeley Township employees lifeguards. Caught unprepared, lifeguards and swimmers were still at the beach.
Lightning struck the lifeguard stand and killed lifeguard Keith Pinto, a 19-year-old from Toms River. Seven others, including three other lifeguards, were injured.
Like the Brick Beaches and Ortley Beach to the north, Berkeley Township officials have ordered a lightning detection system that sounds an alarm when lightning is detected within six miles. They expect installation to occur within the next two weeks.
The battle of the dunes: Midway Condo Association vs NJ DEP
Like Toms River Township's North Dover beaches, the northern section of South Seaside Park is privately run by the Midway Beach Condominium Association. Most people think of condominiums as high rises or multi-story town homes. At Midway Beach, there are almost 400 homeowners living in small beach bungalows that date from the last century. Only a handful of the home even have a second story.
Over many years, the association built large dunes that withstood the impact of Superstorm Sandy. After the storm, the state set about rebuilding all almost the dunes along Barnegat Island including Midway Beach. The Association objected and went to court claiming its dunes will be dismantled
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by state. After much back and forth, the judges allowed the state Department of Environmental Protection to "seize" the dunes through the eminent domain, after the state promised that no existing dunes will be shortened.
From a casual view of the dunes (phot above), a person can see the difference the Midway dunes are more scattered and less like a checkerboard than the newer dunes built by the Army Corps of Engineers.
History of Berkeley Township beaches
Berkeley Township's beachfront once stretched from Toms Rivers Township/Ortley Beach to the Barnegat Inlet. Over time, Seaside Heights and Seaside Park broke away to form their own governments, and the state created Island Beach State Park. These "subtractions" to the township left an unincorporated area which is informally know as South Seaside Park.
Tips for Visiting Berkeley Township's South Seaside Park
What's New: See above about lightning detection system.
Access and Parking: The easiest route to South Seaside Park is via Route 37 from Exit 82 of the Garden State Parkway and then south along Route 35. Look for sign reading "Twp of Berkeley." Parking is not permitted at Midway Beach without a permit. Parking is free in most of Seaside Park south of 20th Avenue.
Beaches: The township's beach is between 20th and 23rd Avenues (the border with Island Beach State Park). Beach badges are required for access to all beaches weekends starting Memorial Day Weekend and then daily from June 19 to Labor Day. Full season badges are $50; weekly badges are $25. For people 65 years old or over, a seasonal beach badge is $15 and a senior lifetime badge is $20. Daily badges are $10. There is no cost for people 11 years of age and under.
Bear in mind a person need only walk south of 24th Avenue into Island Beach State Park where the beach is free.
Midway Beach between 3rd Lane and 20th Avenue is a private beach. A separate beach badge is required for this part of the beach. Full season badges are $65 for people 12 to 64 years old and $20 for people 65 and older from June 19 to Labor Day. There are no weekly or daily badges available.
Follow Jersey Shore author and expert R.C. Staab as he recounts his 2021 walk of every beach along the 139 miles of the Jersey Shore coastline from Sandy Hook to Cape May. Read all updated stories at www.JerseyShoreWalk.com.