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State Revises Beach Access Proposal, Local Advocates React

Rulemaking authority would still go to municipalities, with caveats

Following numerous rounds of public comment that took place within the past year, state officials on Monday formally proposed a slate of revised beach access rules that they say represents a compromise between a number of stakeholder groups.

The plan would still allow municipalities – rather than the state – to develop local beach access plans, though the municipalities would be required to include both day and night public access to the shoreline.

Municipalities would also be required to hold hearings on the access plans before they could be formally adopted and approved by the state.

Last year, the Department of Environmental Protection held numerous public hearings on a Christie administration initiative that would have put several aspects of beach access rulemaking power in the hands of local municipalities. Previously, such rules were made by the state.

Several groups, including beach access advocates and recreational anglers, feared that certain towns might use the authority to reduce access to beaches – for example, by closing beaches at night when anglers often gather to fish.

Many mayors and municipal officials argued, however, that top-down regulations from the state don't always make sense locally, and towns should be empowered to set access regulations.

At the same time, marina owners balked at a proposal left over from the Corzine administration that would have required them to provide public access to the shoreline through their private property at all times in order to receive a permit to improve or renovate their facilities.

That regulation, under the latest DEP revision, has been changed so marinas would be required to provide public access only when they decide to develop new or adjacent sites they own.

"Providing ample access to our ocean beaches, bays and rivers is a fundamental right for all residents of New Jersey, and the driving force behind these rules," said DEP Commissioner Robert Martin, in a prepared statement. "We heard the suggestions and concerns expressed by many of our residents during a very robust public comment period over the past year and have responded by making changes to the proposed rules, especially recognizing the needs of the fishing community in New Jersey."

At least a few organizations have already expressed concern over the revised rules, however.

Ralph Coscia, president of Citizens' Rights to Access Beaches, said, "The public overwhelmingly spoke out against DEP's proposed changes during last year's public comment sessions.

"The DEP heard our comments but, unfortunately, did not listen to the issues we presented. The latest amended rules fall short of addressing public access concerns... We urge the public to review the amended rules and to participate in the two public hearings and to provide written comments during the comment period."

Tim Dillingham, executive director of American Littoral Society, said, "The DEP heard the public opposition to the early proposal to turn over authority to the towns, who have often been hostile to public access to the shore.

"They made some minor changes, but didn’t fix the fundamental problems," Dillingham said. "Efforts to increase public access to the shore will still face an uphill fight, towns will be in charge, less access will be provided by coastal development and some towns will be empowered to be more exclusionary."

Public hearings will be held on the revised regulations April 18 in Avalon and Long Branch.

If the new regulations are adopted, officials said Monday, the DEP would dedicate Green Acres funding to assist municipalities in developing their access plans, which would have to be approved by the state after local public hearings.

Along with the regulation proposal, the DEP launched a website Monday which details waterfront access statewide.

In addition to the planned meetings, members of the public can submit comments through an online form the agency has set up.

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Public Hearings on Proposed Beach Access Rules:

  • April 18, 11 a.m. in Avalon, at the Avalon Municipal Court Meeting Room, 3100 Dune Drive, Avalon, N.J. 08202
  • April 18, 5 p.m. in Long Branch, at the Long Branch Municipal Council Chambers, 344 Broadway, 2nd floor, Long Branch, N.J. 07740.
  • Online comment submission form.
A Resident March 21, 2012 at 01:04 PM
Granted, I can only remember 40 years ago when I first started going to beaches here in Point....and I can remember there always being a fee. Not too long ago, Pt Beach finally got its own "town owned" beach. The expenses for that beach come out of the town's budget....ya, taxes. In my opinion, instead of any part of my tax being spent on a beach that I don't use...it makes much more sense for those that use the beach to be the ones that pay for it. It is not the Government's duties to provide you with free recreational activities.
Betty Ann March 21, 2012 at 01:28 PM
Regarding the lifeguards: Are you all aware that all Brick lifeguards must be USLA certified?? This is not the case in some neighboring towns, and private lifeguard companies. Yes, Brick Twp pays the salaries for the lifeguards at 11.50/hr. A small price to pay to save even one life during the summer, and the abuse they take from beachgoers who ignore their warnings. These same lifeguards train every morning and clean up the crap left behind by anyone sleeping on the beach, leaving food or cans and bottles. It is my understanding that the pay to park goes to support their salaries for these folks. And private associations pay Brick Twp directly for their services. It is not given for free.
Betty Ann March 21, 2012 at 01:34 PM
Tired: what beaches are you talking about when you say the beach was always clean in the past? Surely not Brick. The lifeguard supervisors are on the beach every morning with the sweepers @ 6am. That's how you get a clean beach when you arrive to sit on the clean beach. Debris washes up, they clean it up so no one gets hurt. I agree about renters; however, year 'round residents aren't exactly clean and pristene either. Have you ever stepped on a lit cigar? It doesn't feel very nice. Or, how about a broken piece of glass from last night's beer bottles. We used to have garbage cans on the beach, duely noted for garbage and bottles/cans. Did you ever clean out a dirty diaper from the bottles/cans. We can thank all the people who do in fact clean up after themselves, but we should be greatful that we don't pay to get on Bay Head's beach. You can't even bring a bottle of water on their beach.
Richard Jacoby March 23, 2012 at 12:27 AM
Right on, William
Richard Jacoby March 23, 2012 at 12:32 AM
All good points, but it would be nice to afford local property tax payers a couple seasonal tags wouldn't it? That wouldn't cost to much.

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