Trenton, NJ - Today, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy signed a bill protecting the public's right to access the beaches and waterfronts in the state.
The bill enshrines into state law the public trust doctrine, which is a principle that establishes that the State's tidal waters and adjacent shorelines belong to the public to be used for navigation, commerce, and recreation, including bathing, swimming, and fishing.
"New Jersey's shoreline and coastal communities are some of our state's greatest treasures," said Gov. Murphy. "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."
The American Littoral Society would like to thank the Governor and NJ lawmakers for taking this action, as well as all of the advocates that campaigned for the new law and all those who sent letters or made phone calls of support.
"This important legislation will enhance the protection of the public's rights to get to and enjoy New Jersey's beaches and waterfronts by providing new tools to deal with long-standing public access problems," said Tim Dillingham, Executive Director of the Littoral Society. "We look forward to working with the administration on implementation of this law and all people have real access to the state's waters."
Dillingham was one of four co-chairs that served on a special legislative task force to study the issue. The group, convened by Sen. Bob Smith (D-Middlesex), was made up of business leaders, conservationists and other stakeholders.
With the governor's signature, A4221/S1074 will codify state obligations to ensure that the public has meaningful access to, and use of, the shoreline, tidal waters and other areas subject to the Public Trust Doctrine. The bills will provide authority to address chronic problems limiting public access to tidal waters throughout New Jersey and provide needed policy direction to the Department of Environmental Protection to administer the regulations.
The bill applies not only to beaches, but to tidal waterfront areas in the northern part of the state such as the Hudson River, where rampant development has walled off large sections of the waterfront.
Previous public access guidelines for NJ municipalities ended in 2015, when a state court ruled that the DEP over-stepped its authority in issuing the regulations.
The legislation was supported and advanced by efforts of a broad based coalition of conservation and environmental, angler and surfing organizations, including theAmerican Littoral Society, NY/NJ Baykeeper, Hackensack RiverKeeper, Friends of Liberty State Park, NJ Council of Dive Clubs, Shark River Surf Anglers, Hudson River Fishermen's Association, New Jersey League of Conservation Voters, Jersey Coast Anglers Association, Citizen's Rights to Access Beaches (CRAB), Recreational Fishing Alliance, Raritan RiverKeeper, Hudson River Walkway Conservancy, Surfrider Foundation: Jersey Shore Chapter, Surfrider Foundation: Mid-Atlantic Region, New Jersey Conservation Foundation, Outdoor Alliance.
The Littoral Society would also like to thank thank Assemblywomen Joanne Downey and Nancy J. Pinkin, and Assemblymen Andrew Zwicker and Roy Freiman, as well as NJ State Senators Bob Smith, Christopher Bateman, Vin Gopal, Fred H. Madden Jr., and Linda R. Greenstein.
"The efforts of these long time advocates for public access paid off, and we look forward to continue to improving the public opportunities to enjoy state waters and shorelines under this legislation," Dillingham added.