Jersey Shore Chapter

Beach Access and Beach Replenishment

Beach Replenishment has caused problems for public beach access as long as anyone can remember in NJ.  Famously, way back in the early 1990’s, the beaches of northern Monmouth County were very lacking of both sand and public access. Access advocates urged officials to fix the access problems first. Bernie Moore of the NJ DEP said there was no time, that the beaches needed sand so badly that they were going to replenish, and then figure out the access problems later. Well guess what, they never solved the access problems and the access in places like Sea Bright and Monmouth Beach is not much better than it was 25 years ago.

The Corzine Administration proposed rules about public access to waterways that connected state money for beach replenishment with public access.  As in, if a town wanted public money to replenish their beaches, that town needed to provide a certain amount of public access. The rules from this administration made clear, statewide standards and they even recognized things like parking and restroom facilities as part of public access.  We liked these rules. They were good rules.

Towns on Long Beach Island, like Long Beach Township, who really wanted federally-subsidized sand on their beaches, started all sorts of gimmicks to make the publicly inaccessible parts of their town like North Beach and Loveladies a little bit more accessible.

But the Borough of Avalon did not like those beach access rules and they sued to have the rules overturned. They won, but not because there was anything wrong with the rules themselves.  They won because the NJ Legislature never gave the DEP the authority to write such rules tying access to public money for sand.

Then the Christie Administration did a 180 and made a set of rules saying each town can simply submit their own Municipal Public Access Plan, MPAP, and there would be no state standards, no mandates for access. We did not like these rules. This time environmental groups sued like NY/NJ Baykeeper, and they won for largely the same reason. The Legislature never gave the DEP authority to write such rules.

But the local Surfrider Foundation Chapter thought that the public was on their side. To find out for sure they contracted with the Rutgers-Eagleton Center for Public Interest to add a question about public access to replenished beaches to an existing poll. The result was that 82.1 percent of adults support an improved access requirement, 10.6 percent oppose it, and 7.3 percent are unsure. The survey was of 906 adults in NJ.

This resulted in an Asbury Park Press Editorial.

A few years later, a multi-year saga on public access unfolded as they replenished the beaches of Deal, NJ.

On January 20, 2015, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (“ACOE”), New York District awarded a $38 million contract to Manson Construction Company to replenish beaches, reconstruct storm water outfalls and implement modifications to an area from Elberon to Loch Arbor. The project is funded by the federal government through the 2013 Disaster Relief Appropriations Act (PL113-2).

In some instances, restoration projects can enhance public access. If implemented properly, within an agreeable municipality, certain regulations will require more access points and increased public parking. Under the ACOE’s Public Access Appendix K to the restoration project, reasonable public access must be provided in accordance with the recreational use objectives of the particular area. However, public use is construed to be effectively limited to within one-quarter mile from available points of public access to any particular shore. This means that the addition of access points beyond a quarter-mile is not required. Additionally, nearby parking facilities, on free or reasonable terms, should be within a reasonable walking distance to the beach.  Lack of sufficient public parking with reasonable public access to the beach will preclude federal participation.

Despite these requirements, however, the Jersey Shore Chapter has witnessed first hand how beach restoration can cause certain municipalities to restrict access or public parking following the widening of beaches. When the beaches are enlarged, it is only natural that more people will tend to visit the beach, park nearby and need adequate access. In some areas, the beachfront residents near these widened beaches may complain about the influx of people to their elected leaders.

In October, 2015, soon after the beaches were enlarged with federal tax-payer’s money, the Borough of Deal proposed Ordinance #1124 which sought to restrict parking on six oceanfront streets during the summer.[1] Only Deal residents located on these streets would have been issued permits. Due to the fact that you can’t access the beach if you cannot adequately park nearby, the Chapter vehemently opposed this ordinance. Ultimately, the ordinance was tabled after overwhelming public opposition. Similarly, in June 2016, the Borough proposed Ordinance #1134 which sought to restrict beach access by implementing permit parking on one side of those same streets.[2] This Ordinance was also tabled.

In April 2017, the Borough proposed Ordinance #1143 which sought to require permit parking during the summer months on those same streets with vital beach access points for a cost of $100 (season) or $50 (per month).[3] The Ordinance would have given preferential treatment to thirty-two beachfront residents with ample parking. This Ordinance was merely another attempt to keep people away from the newly restored beaches, paid for with public funds. Ultimately, Ordinance #1143 was tabled after immense public pressure.

In June 2017, the Borough of Deal ultimately passed Ordinance #1152 which created a municipal beach at Hathaway Avenue.[4] Prior to the passing of this Ordinance, the Borough did not allow swimming and there were no lifeguards on duty. The Borough began selling seasonal ($150) and daily ($8/$10) passes for access and use of the newly lifeguarded beach.

Ultimately, the Deal saga teaches us that beach restoration can have a detrimental effect on public access. Municipalities catering to their beachfront residents (who are typically wealthier residents) can attempt to enact ordinances that restrict public beach access. This is in conflict with the public’s desire to visit newly widened and replenished beaches, as would be expected.

Loch Arbour is a town that was replenished in the same stretch of coast and roughly at the same time as Deal, NJ.  Loch Arbour  tried to restrict access by restricting street parking in May of 2020.  The chapter beat this back along with local residents and the ordinance did not pass. Interestingly, the Mayor of Loch Arbour, Paul Fernicola, is the attorney for the Borough of Deal.

This just scratches the surface on the problems that replenishment causes with beach access. There will certainly be more. This is one of may reasons that the chapter is concerned with the practice of beach replenishment.

[1] “Jersey Shore town looks to restrict public parking near beaches” – October 5, 2015, http://www.nj.com/monmouth/index.ssf/2015/10/ordinance_looks_to_restrict_parking_near_jersey_sh.html

[2] “Shore town looks to restrict parking near beach – again” – June 28, 2016, http://www.nj.com/monmouth/index.ssf/2016/06/shore_town_looks_to_restrict_parking_near_beach_–.html

[3] “Deal’s war on outsiders: $100 fee to park near beach” – April 12, 2017, https://www.app.com/story/news/local/communitychange/2017/04/12/deal-parking-plan/100374792/

[4] Wealthy Jersey Shore town looking to charge at some of its free beaches – June 2, 2017, http://www.nj.com/monmouth/index.ssf/2017/06/wealthy_jersey_shore_town_looking_to_charge_at_som.html