For months local government leaders at the Jersey Shore didn't know what to expect for the summer tourism season due to the pandemic and waiting in anticipation for Governor Phil Murphy to lift restrictions holding up towns and counties.

The true financial impacts of the summer of 2020 at the Jersey Shore won't truly be known until sometime next year but this year saw record beach revenue in Monmouth County despite the restrictions and despite the pandemic.

With less people traveling and more people staying home, it was likely due to more local residents heading to the beach.

Following another record breaking beach badge revenue summer in 2020, Monmouth County Freeholders are hoping for a continuation of that in 2021 for a season of the year that is a big part of their local economy.

"We are going to be extremely marketing our tourism in 2021, we thought it was busy in 2020, but I think it's going to surpass that because people are still going to be somewhat hesitant on going away," Monmouth County Freeholder Director Tom Arnone tells Townsquare Media Jersey Shore News.

People staying local for the summer of 2021 could be a driving force behind a summer revenue spike and rebound.

"One of our marketing tools is to ask our patrons, and I could never force somebody not to go on vacation with their families and I always welcome that, but the more they could stay here in the county to give back to our businesses will turn us around quicker than we have in the past or other counties have in the past," Arnone said. "Monmouth County is a destination, there's not much we don't have and in some areas provide almost like an island type view and atmosphere."

Outside the summer tourism and beach revenue in 2020, there were a lot of challenges and a battle for a lot of people for a lot of similar and different reasons including health and finance.

In Monmouth County, Freeholder Director Arnone helped quarterback the game plan for the local community in keeping things running the best as possible and serving the residents.

From the time the pandemic hit in March, Arnone and the Freeholder Board began holding a series of press conferences (that are still continuing) where he, Deputy Director Sue Kiley and other guest speakers including Sheriff Shaun Golden and Clerk Christine Hanlon addressed the media and spoke to residents relaying information they needed to know.

"We put together a strategic plan of what we had to do and obviously first and foremost was the safety of the people of Monmouth County," Arnone said. "Then we had to look at what was probably devastating a lot of people and that was not being able to congregate and being cooped up in the house and parks being closed and quality of life issues."

One of the biggest non-health related issues to tackle was the impact the pandemic was having and is still having on small businesses and the local economic climate.

The Federal CARES Act funding has served as a lifeline for many businesses to cut down on Covid related expenses while trying to stay open under heavy restrictions in place.

Monmouth County was among eight New Jersey counties to receive that funding with having more than 500,000 residents and in total they received $108-million.

"We had to look to see what we could do to benefit our businesses," Arnone said. "We were able to provide up to $20,000 to businesses to give some sort of relief, we did a major marketing campaign thru 'Take Out in Monmouth' with them and even on the beaches with the 'Know Before You Go' initiative. The Freeholders also worked with non-profits and our Chambers of Commerce."

Arnone said his goal with CARES Act funds was to keep it in Monmouth County "because that's where it should be" and hopes that it will help keep businesses afloat in 2021 as well.

"My ultimate goal, with the support of the freeholders, is to keep that fund here so when this dark day goes away, meaning the pandemic, these people have some sort of survival mode and hopefully they'll be able to rebound and I do believe they will, I do," Arnone said.

While there were some mild or warmer fall days that made outdoor dining comfortable enough, January and February are traditionally the coldest months of the year, and with restrictions in place local businesses will need more support than ever before.

That's one of the reasons the 'Take Out In Monmouth' initiative will roll out in early 2021.

"We have to bank on the take-out. The take-out component is going to be huge in January and February so we just went out and purchased thousands of those 'Take Out In Monmouth' bags. It gives us a way to put a message out there," Arnone said.

The Freeholders want to help businesses in 2021 as well as infrastructure projects among other goals for the new year.

"I want to see us come back with our 'Made in Monmouth' program and hopefully we can partner with one of the higher education institutions and expand the program even if we have to move it to regions so that our business climate can benefit from it all throughout the county," Arnone said.

He also hopes to continue and finish work on the Glimmer Glass Bridge, the Rumson-Sea Bright Bridge and the Oceanic Bridge.

"I want to make sure we're in more than just the planning stages and actually close to the groundbreaking," Arnone said. "As we expand, we have to make sure we're expanding our infrastructure too."

In an effort to help some of the towns with local recreation projects the County is providing grant funding to nearly two-dozen municipalities.

Monmouth County Freeholders have awarded $3.47 million in dedicated park improvement grant funds to 23 different municipalities through the 2020 round of the Municipal Open Space Grant program which helps municipalities meet the recreational needs of their residents and provides them with funding to meet their local open space acquisition, recreation, historic and conservation goals.

“The MOSG program is an example of how the County works cooperatively and successfully to ensure local park needs are met, especially during this uniquely challenging time when residents need access to parks more than ever to support their mental and physical health,” Arnone said in previous stated remarks.

Here are municipalities that have been awarded funding through the 2020 grant.

Township of NeptuneSunshine Village Park -  Pump Track$250,000
Borough of Tinton FallsLiberty Park - Dog Park Improvements$127,000
Borough of InterlakenBridlemere Park - Improvements$175,000
Borough of AllentownGeorge Ashby Memorial Park Phase II$125,000
Township of MillstoneMillstone Park Phase II Improvements$250,000
Township of ShrewsburyImprovements to Eloise Nagel Park$115,000
Borough of West Long BranchOwen Farm, Franklin Lake, Sorrentino and Ronan Shirvanian Park -Improvements$175,000
City of Asbury ParkSunset Lake & Springwood Avenue Parks - Improvements$250,000
Borough of Spring Lake HeightsShore Road Park Improvements$125,000
Borough of Neptune CityAdams Field - Improvements$250,000
Borough of FreeholdLiberty Park Improvements$250,000
Borough of Sea GirtEdgemere Park - Phase I$20,000
Borough of Lake ComoLake Como - Passive Recreation Improvements$200,000
Borough of Spring LakeLake Como - Improvements$200,000
Township of WallCommunity Park South - Phase II$125,000
Borough of Sea BrightShrewsbury Riverfront Park - Phase II$80,000
Township of HolmdelAllocco Park Playground Improvements$200,000
Borough of ManasquanCurtis & Skokus Park - Playgrounds -    Phase I$90,000
Borough of OceanportCommunity Center Park - Improvements$150,000
City of Long BranchLake Takanassee Beautification$40,000
Borough of EatontownWampum Park - Site and ADA Upgrades$50,000
Borough of AvonRecreation Facility Improvements$15,000
Borough of Atlantic Highlands Many Mind Park Improvements$85,000

You can follow Vin Ebenau on Twitter and Instagram and email news tips to vin.ebenau@townsquaremedia.com.

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