Asbury Park has great beach — but its residents can’t afford fee
ASBURY PARK — Lisa Marie Cramp has lived here for five years and in that time she has seen the drastic effects of a poverty line that roughly 30 percent of the city's residents live below.
"I am sandwiched between Section 8 housing, and I live next to very nice people, and when I ask them and the kids, 'Hey, do you guys go to the beach?' ... 'We want to, but we can't afford it,'" she said.
In one of her many capacities serving the community, as a dog walker, Cramp said she sees families headed toward the ocean in the evening, when lifeguards go home and beach access becomes free. Having previously lived in southern California, where beaches are free round-the-clock, she took an interest in trying to prevent the dangers of unsupervised swimming as the result of not being able to afford a badge. Kids age 12 and under are free in Asbury Park, but often their adult guardians can't afford the fees.
Disabled veterans also get to go to the beach for free, but the same is not true for others with disabilities.
Cramp said she contacted the city last year to ask if lifeguard hours could be extended, but officials told her they didn't have the money to do so. But this year, she took a different approach, bypassing direct involvement from the city to launch a GoFundMe page. Through that, Cramp hopes to provide Asbury Park families with season beach passes in the amount of $70 per adult and $20 per teenager or senior.
Her initial goal was $3,000, to benefit members of the local Boys & Girls Club and Trinity Church. But that figure more than doubled in less than three weeks. So far, Cramp has gotten entirely positive feedback.
"I just think it's a nice way to give families, teens, and children with a lower income a chance to enjoy the beach like everybody else can," she said.
The Asbury Park residents Cramp has interacted with in her five years there embrace the diversity of the city, she said, and want to see a safer community where kids are given opportunities like spending time at the beach with their families, instead of getting caught up in gang violence and crime.
Cramp has also spoken to the Boys & Girls Club about holding lessons for swimming and water safety, using any excess money from her fundraiser that isn't put toward providing the beach badges.