"There is no boardwalk here, no honky-tonk. It's just a beautiful, well-kept town and beach," said Don Furmanski, a trustee of the Stone Harbor Property Owners Association.
A year ago, Stone Harbor set its sights on getting the Washington-based Clean Beaches Council to rate it among the best beaches in the country, Furmanski said.
"This is something we really wanted to bring to Stone Harbor because we truly believe we have the best town and the best beaches at the Jersey Shore," he said. "This isn't something you can buy. It's a rating that has to be earned."
Clean Beaches Council representatives secretly visited to observe the beach, then paid an official call to determine whether the Cape May County resort was worthy of the Blue Wave rating, the council's stamp of approval.
Stone Harbor made the cut because of the high water quality and the signs for "zoned beaches" for swimming, fishing, surfing and other activities, said Walter McLeod, president of the Clean Beaches Council.
In addition, the borough has a detailed public-safety and disaster-management plan for its shore that covers everything from jellyfish stings to shark attacks, McLeod said.
The only other Shore resort ever named to the list was Sandy Hook, when the rating was created six years ago.
"We had some inquiries about the designation from other New Jersey towns after the deadline this year," McLeod said, "so I would not be surprised that in 2005 there will be other towns in New Jersey that will be looked at for certification."
Through its national environmental and public-safety certification program, McLeod said, the council hopes to "establish a new ethic for the beachgoing public."
"We hope the public begins to look to the beach as not just a great recreational opportunity but as a priceless, national resource that needs to be preserved and protected."
Stone Harbor Mayor Suzanne Walters said she was thrilled by the Blue Wave designation, which will be promoted with blue-and-white flags at the beach and pamphlets at businesses and real estate offices.
"Everyone wins when beaches are clean and safe," Walters said. "The voluntary Blue Wave campaign is an innovative way for beaches managed with respect for the environment to stand apart from the others."
Also receiving the Blue Wave certification today are two beaches in Delaware, Bethany and Lewes.
In addition, 43 beaches in Florida received the designation this year as well as one beach in each of the states of Alabama, Michigan, North Carolina, South Carolina, Texas, Virginia and Wisconsin.
Contact staff writer Jacqueline L. Urgo at 609-823-9629 or firstname.lastname@example.org.