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DEP to limit who walks on the beach.

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Opposing Views on Proposed Beach Access Rules


Environment | Thu, 06/17/2010 - 2:19 pm

By Joe Hart


AVALON - The state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) is changing its stance on beach access rules, making one local mayor happy and one state conservationist not so happy.

DEP Commissioner Bob Martin announced recently that his agency will create new rules on public access to the state's tidal waters, aiming to enhance access while eliminating costly rules for local governments, businesses and property owners.


According to a release, the proposed changes would end DEP mandates for towns and other property owners to provide parking, restrooms and 24-hour access for beach and waterway visitors. New reasonable rules would recognize local conditions and costs, the release stated.


"We want a policy in place that works for everyone, that allows ample and easy access to our waters while removing onerous burdens on businesses and property owners,'' said Martin. "We are taking a common sense approach on public access.''


"It's a step in the right direction," said Avalon Mayor Martin Pagliughi. "This commissioner is an educated businessman and he is right to treat this issue with common sense."


Avalon sued the DEP regarding its previous beach access rules, which were tied to its ability to receive state beach nourishment funds.


Pagliughi said the rules shouldn't apply to towns like Avalon, which provides public beach access at 62 streets, maintains 15 public restrooms and has thousands of free parking spaces near the beach.


"I agree 100 percent that the state shouldn't provide public funding for private beaches," he said, noting that there are some private beaches in North Jersey. "But it's not like that in Avalon."


Eventually, the borough won. State Courts held that the regulations were invalid. The court based its decision on the fact that the DEP did not have legislative authority to regulate municipally-owned beaches.


"Cities and towns know best how to plan for their own needs,'' said Martin.

The old regulations left cities and towns out of the planning process, and proved to be too costly and unwieldy with little public benefit, the release stated. The DEP is working with residents, environmental and business groups, and local elected leaders on the new rule changes, which are expected to be proposed in July.


Some of the public access changes to be proposed by the DEP this summer include:


"¢ DEP would allow towns to develop their own access plans.

"¢ New facilities would be mandated to provide public access or the owners could be directed to contribute to a public access fund.

"¢ Existing facilities that are being improved, existing facilities with homeland security concerns, single or two-family homes and small commercial developments would be exempt from public access rules.

"¢ Marinas would be required to provide "reasonable'' public access, but would no longer need to offer access on a 24-hour basis.

"¢ Oceanfront municipalities would be required to provide "reasonable" access point to the beach and parking opportunities for visitors.

"¢ All municipalities' hours and parking would be addressed primarily by municipal plans, with access to be "reasonable" and recognize issues such as public safety and cost.


While Pagliughi seems on board with the proposed changes that put access issues back in municipal hands, there are some who liked the old regulations better.


One of those in the other camp was Tim Dillingham, executive director of the American Littoral Society, a non-profit agency that promotes the study and conservation of marine life and habitat, protects the coast from harm and advocates for unrestricted access to beaches and waterways.


"The shore belongs to everyone, not just coastal towns or landowners," Dillingham told the Herald via email. "The rules being repealed were meant to protect this public access, and were necessary because of past efforts to block access through no-trespassing signs, restrictive or no-parking ordinances, and limits on times the shore was considered 'open.'"

He said the state played an important role in protecting access for fishermen, surfers and the public. He also said beach access should be user friendly, coming with parking, restrooms and accessible walkways to the water.


"The Christie administration proposal will weaken the role of the state in protecting these rights by delegating access decisions to the towns," Dillingham added.


"I expect these rules will result in less access away from commercial beach areas," Dillingham said. "Towns will use the 'reasonable access' standard to argue that they shouldn't have to provide access, parking and law enforcement in less commercial parts of the shore, that that wouldn't be 'reasonable.'"

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Posted on Wed, Jun. 16, 2010

DEP says new rules would broaden beach access at Shore

By Jacqueline L. Urgo
Inquirer Staff Writer

Public access to New Jersey's beaches will be enhanced and Shore towns will get out from under "burdensome and costly" rules that eroded their municipal power under regulations proposed Tuesday by the state Department of Environmental Protection, according to officials.

"We want a policy in place that works for everyone, that allows ample and easy access to our waters while removing onerous burdens on businesses and property owners," DEP Commissioner Bob Martin said in a written statement. "We are taking a common-sense approach on public access."
Beach access is a hot-button issue at the Shore, particularly in towns along the northern section of the coast, such as Bay Head and Deal. On Long Beach Island there are no public beach-access points along stretches of up to three miles.

Citing Public Trust Doctrines, which date to the colonial era and established the public's right to use tidal waterways - including the ocean, bays, and rivers and their shores - DEP officials imposed regulations in 2007 to correct the restrictive access at some locales.

Towns including Avalon and Ocean City were required to provide 24-hour-a-day beach access despite local ordinances that closed the strand at nightfall for safety reasons. If Shore municipalities wanted state funds for beach-replenishment projects, they were required to meet that mandate and others, such as providing public parking spaces and restrooms.

Some, particularly on Long Beach Island, found themselves in a regulatory nightmare. The towns spent years chasing uncooperative private property owners for easements to build access pathways, parking lots, and restrooms in order to qualify for much-needed beach-fill projects.

Avalon and Stone Harbor successfully sued the DEP over the regulations. State courts struck down various provisions and questioned the agency's authority even to implement the law.

In filing the borough's 2007 lawsuit against the state, Avalon Mayor Martin Pagliughi called the rules "shortsighted and ridiculous." He challenged the power of the state to require all-hours access he said could leave municipalities open to lawsuits if midnight beachgoers were killed or injured.

He also called nonsense the "vague" policies that required installation of bathrooms and parking in overdeveloped sections of the barrier islands.

Under the revised regulations, municipalities would be given a greater role in developing their own policies, Martin said. They still would have to provide "reasonable access" to beaches, parking, and restrooms, but the DEP would allow them to take into account safety and cost in developing a plan. Commercial marinas would no longer be required to provide 24-hour water access.

The regulations would exempt single-family homes, duplexes, and commercial developments from the beach-access rules. Facilities undergoing renovation would not have to provide access unless it previously existed.

Martin said the proposed regulations were revised based on meetings with residents, environmental and business groups, and local officials.

Jeff Tittel, director of the New Jersey Sierra Club, which heralded the 2007 regulations, said Tuesday that he was not upset by the changes. They are a "compromise that tries to balance competing interests," he said in a written statement.

Environmental groups feared that successful challenges to the 2007 regulations in the courts and attempts to alter them legislatively might lead to an outright repeal of rules concerning beach access, Tittel said.
"These [new] rules will still provide for public access for the people of New Jersey," he said.

The New Jersey Business & Industry Association called the changes "a victory of common sense."

"The [2007] public-access rule was just the latest in a long line of arbitrary rules and regulations imposed by government agencies that provided little public benefit, but damaged the state's reputation and business climate," said David Brogan, the group's vice president.

N.J. Beach-Access Proposal

Public beach-access plans, including hours and parking, would be developed primarily by municipalities, taking into account issues such as safety and cost.

Oceanfront municipalities would have to provide a reasonable access point and reasonable parking.

Single- or two-family homes and small commercial developments would be exempt from access rules.

A facility undergoing renovation would not have to provide access unless it already existed.

New facilities would be required to provide direct access to tidal waters, or the owners could be made to contribute to a public-access fund.

Existing facilities would be exempt from access rules where they would present homeland security concerns.

Commercial marinas would be required to provide "reasonable" access, but not on a 24/7 basis.

SOURCE: N.J. Department of Environmental Protection
Contact staff writer Jacqueline L. Urgo at 609-652-8382 or

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