BERKELEY TOWNSHIP, N.J. – "The nerve of him."
That was the general consensus Tuesday among beachgoers at Island Beach State Park managing to eke out at least a few hours on the strand before the Fourth of July weekend came to an end.
"We're still upset. … The nerve of him to rub people's noses in it," said Barbara O'Neill, 52, of Toms River. "This is our beach, we pay for it. … The nerve of him."
It was a sentiment expressed by many at the park who were some combination of disappointed, disgusted, and infuriated that Gov. Christie had lolled around the governor's official compound at Island Beach in Ocean County over the weekend while the rest of the state was locked out of all state parks and facilities during an impasse.
The shutdown ended after the governor and key Democrats resolved their differences and Christie signed the budget in the wee hours on Tuesday morning.
Despite the shutdown, Jersey Shore officials projected that the season — and even the holiday weekend — would be a winner when tallies are counted after Labor Day, adding as much as 5 percent to last year's $44 billion state tourism total, said Diane F. Wieland, director of tourism for Cape May County.
The middle-of-the-week placement of the Fourth of July created two "big" weekends for vendors at the beach, Wieland said.
"Despite a bit of a slow start in June because a lot of the Philadelphia-area schools didn't end the school year until close to the end of the month, we are seeing reservations up," Wieland said. "Heading into the prime season, we are optimistic, provided the weather is good."
And the weather — hot and sunny — Tuesday was perfect for the beach, although some were still stuck on what had transpired in government the previous few days.
It wasn't so much that some of their favorite places had been closed, they said, but that Christie seemed to have been thumbing his nose at the public, saying: "Run for governor and you can have the residence."
"I understand it's a perk of the job to have the beach mansion here," said Ben Quarne, 36, of Clinton, a municipal road department worker who brought his family to Island Beach for the day. "But I think his comments were outright disrespectful of everyone else."
David Cunha, 33, of East Brunswick, said that while most of the other beaches on New Jersey's 127-mile coastline had remained open throughout the weekend, Island Beach was one of the few affordable options.
The park charges $10 a carload and does not require beach tags. Most other Shore towns charge a minimum of $10 per person to set foot on the sand.
"And then you have to pay to park, on top of that. It's just not something that some people can afford," Cunha said. "And it was selfish and unfair for the state to handle it the way it did — especially the governor — on a holiday weekend."
Santo Bonelli, 73, of Bayville, felt the same way.
"They could have put the whole budget thing on hold and allowed the visitors and residents of this state to enjoy their holiday weekend, but instead they chose to thumb their noses at the common people while he's out their sunbathing like a king. That is disgraceful."
Wendy Creech, 51, of Westfield, Mass., said the whole thing would have left a bad taste in her mouth had she not been staying with relatives in nearby Island Heights for the weekend.
"We got here Friday and found out we weren't going to be able to go to the beach," said Creech. "If we were paying for a hotel, we'd have been very angry. … We'd probably have never come back to New Jersey."
The closure of state parks disrupted plans for hiking and camping as well.
"My daughter and I were really excited about getting into hiking. We had been waiting all weekend to do this," said Ryan Poletis, who brought 10-year-old Olivia to Batsto Lake in Wharton State Forest on Tuesday. "We bought hiking equipment the other day and really wanted to get out here," said Poletis, 40, who lives in Turnersville.
Janet and Bob Winters, of Millville, said they had planned to camp at Wharton but decamped instead to the private Chestnut Lake RV campground in nearby Port Republic. They went for a walk at Batsto on Tuesday.
"We love it here," said Janet Winters, 63. "I hope this doesn't happen again."