LAW & PUBLIC SAFETY

Governor signs law that strengthens public access to beaches

By Tom Johnson | NJ Spotlight

With Gov. Phil Murphy’s signature, the state has broadened the public’s access to beaches and waterfront areas, but even advocates say more needs to be done to ensure New Jersey’s shoreline is readily accessible to all.

The governor signed a bill (S-1074) on Friday that enshrines into state law the public trust doctrine, a principle that holds natural resources such as tidal waters and waterfronts are preserved for public use. The bill won approval this spring after a hard-fought battle in the Legislature.

The issue of who has access to beaches and waterfronts had long pitted conservationists against town officials and private property owners, as well as business interests, such as condominiums and marinas. Some towns sought to block access by limiting parking, imposing high beach fees and blocking access points.

The law aims to solve the problem by obligating the Department of Environmental Protection to promote access in its funding and permitting decisions involving coastal and other regulatory programs.

“New Jersey’s shoreline and coastal communities are some of our state’s greatest treasures,’’ said Murphy, in announcing his signing of the bill. “By strengthening the public’s right to access our beaches, we are ensuring that all New Jersey residents and visitors can enjoy our beautiful shore this summer and for generations to come.’’

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