A new poll finds most New Jerseyans want shore towns that get public money for beach replenishment to offer better public access to those newly widened beaches.
The state Department of Environmental Protection plans to issue new beach access rules later this month, designed to balance the public’s right to use beaches against the cost to towns and property owners of providing public access.
A Rutgers-Eagleton survey paid for by the Surfrider Foundation, a beach access group, found more than 82 percent of those surveyed want towns that get beach replenishment funds to provide better public access.
The proposed rules currently under legal review by the DEP contain no such requirement.
“The real solution here is for the state legislature to take this up and pass a law relating to beach access,” said John Weber, the Surfrider Foundation’s northeast regional manager.
Beach access has long been a hotly disputed topic in New Jersey, where tourism is a nearly $40 billion industry and the state’s 127 miles of beaches are a primary draw. Some Jersey shore beach towns have plenty of ways to keep outsiders off their sand: Limit on-street parking, prohibit food and drink, and provide no public bathrooms.
Under the previous administration of Gov. Jon Corzine, New Jersey required public access points every quarter-mile and bathrooms every half-mile on any beach that received public money for beach replenishment.
But an appeals court overturned those rules in 2008, deciding that the state had no right to order towns to allow 24-hour access to their beaches or to require bathrooms there.
The poll, which has a margin of error of 3.3 percentage points, surveyed 906 New Jersey residents last month. It found 82.1 percent of respondents favoring greater public access as a requirement for getting public beach replenishment funding, while 10.6 percent opposed it and 7.3 percent were not sure.
Last summer, the DEP announced it was changing the way New Jersey oversees beach access, removing what it called one-size-fits-all rules and allowing individual towns to craft their own local beach access plans, subject to state review.
The department said it was acting to “create reasonable new rules on public access” while ending “unreasonable mandates” such as requiring 24-hour public access to the water.
Those proposed rules are in legal review, and will be ready to be issued by the end of January, DEP spokesman Larry Ragonese said Monday. A 60-day public comment period will follow, and the new rules should be in place for the start of the summer beach season, he said.
“It is clear that the people of New Jersey value their beach access and think it should be improved where necessary,” said Joe Woerner, the Surfrider Foundation’s regional chairman. “They value how their tax dollars are spent and they don’t want them spent on private beaches.”
See CNBC story here.
See Asbury Park Press Story here.