Which are Jersey’s best beaches? The  2012 Top Ten New Jersey Beaches competition is at midpoint, and staffers at the New Jersey Sea Grant Consortium in Sandy Hook say voting’s at unprecedented levels.

“It’s fast and furious,” says Director of Communications Kim Kosko. “In the first three weeks of voting we’ve topped the totals for the entire survey last year.” And the balloting rages on through April 30th at www.njseagrant.org.

Kim points to two new factors – the Internet and community consciousness.  “Towns that in the past have been complacent…this year have put together a concentrated effort to attract votes.”

Belmar, for example, launched its campaign even before the balloting officially opened, hoping to muscle out a top spot from perennial winners the Wildwoods.

Also, for the first time in the contest’s five-year history, social media is becoming a driving force, Kim says.

“By cross-linking and posting at a lot of social media services and pages, we’re finding that it’s had a lot to do with the increase in the action in voting,” she adds. “That tells us a little bit more about how we’re going to approach projects in the future.”

Voters this year also have a chance to influence the agenda of coastal advocates as never before. Everyone who casts a ballot can also choose one issue from a list of 20 affecting the shore environment,  now and in the future. The issue that gets the most attention will become the focus of an upcoming NJSGC research study or project.

“We’re asking [people] to think about not only the beaches that they like, and what they like to do at the beaches,” Kim explains, “but also caring about them, by taking a little bit of pride in ownership and being a little more conscious of the fact that they need to…be part of helping to conserve and preserve those resources.”

Also this year, balloters have the option of entering a prize drawing. Four voters chosen at random will win prize packages of merchandise, gift certificates, restaurant coupons, hotel and bed-and-breakfast specials, and passes to theme parks, aquariums and festivals.

So if you’ve got a favorite stretch of beach along New Jersey’s 130 miles of coast, let your voice be heard. Who knows – you might get a whole summer of fun out of it and help preserve it for years to come.


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