Prepared by the Hakensack RiverKeeper
All of the following are pulled directly from New Jersey Supreme Court cases:
1. The Public Trust Doctrine acknowledges that the ownership, dominion and sovereignty over land flowed by tidal waters, which extend to the mean high water mark, is vested in the State in trust for the people.
2. The public’s right to use the tidal lands and water encompasses navigation, fishing and recreational uses, including bathing, swimming and other shore activities.
3. Extension of the Public Trust Doctrine to include bathing, swimming and other shore activities is consonant with and furthers the general welfare. The public’s right to enjoy these privileges must be respected.
4. The genesis of this principle is found in Roman jurisprudence, which held that by the law of nature the air, running water, the sea, and consequently the shores of the sea, were common to mankind. No one was forbidden access to the sea, and everyone could use the seashore, to dry his nets there, and haul them from the sea. The seashore was not private property, but subject to the same law as the sea itself, and the sand or ground beneath it.
5. This common property had passed from Charles II to the Duke of York, and upon the Revolution these royal rights became vested in the people of New Jersey.
6. The Public Trust Doctrine, as conceived in ancient times, allowed not only use of the water for navigation and fishing, but also access to the seashore.
7. The State can no more abdicate its trust over property in which the whole people are interested than it can abdicate its police powers.
8. Without some means of access the public right to use the foreshore would be meaningless. To say that the Public Trust Doctrine entitles the public to swim in the ocean and to use the foreshore in connection therewith without assuring a feasible access route would seriously impinge on, if not effectively eliminate, the rights of the Public Trust Doctrine.