Thursday, February 11, 2016

Will "beach access" remain an "oxymoron" in NJ?

From Jacqueline L. Urgo: Debate continues over one of the Jersey Shore’s hot-button issues: beach access.

Will “beach access” remain an “oxymoron” in NJ?


From Jacqueline L. Urgo: Debate continues over one of the Jersey Shore’s hot-button issues: beach access.

This week, the state Department of Environmental Protection formally proposed amendments to its “common sense” rules for access to the state’s beaches, bays and waterways.

“Providing ample access … is a fundamental right for all residents of New Jersey and the driving force behind these rules,” DEP Commissioner Bob Martin said in a statement.

Yet after months of hearings where residents expressed concerns about everything from restricted beach access on Long Beach Island to posted hours at state marinas, the amendments still don’t get to the meat and potatoes.

They would allow recreational anglers use of public marinas and would clarify rules regarding private marinas. Yet the only proposal specifically about beach access is a generic statement about wanting to “enhance opportunities for the citizens to participate in the crafting of municipal public access plans.” No specifics.

The Christie administration decided that old regulations requiring a certain numbers of entry points, parking spaces, rest rooms and hours were onerous. It sought a more “common sense” approach that acknowledged that rules aren’t one-size-fits-all.

But critics say that new regulations giving municipalities the ability to write their own access plans are so vague towns will be able to do whatever they please.

In places like Loveladies and North Beach on Long Beach Island, access to vast stretches of public beach — up to two miles in some areas — is restricted by a lack of access points, parking, rest rooms and other amenities, opponents of limited access say. Only those with multimillion-dollar oceanfront homes can get to the beach, making the areas essentially private, the critics say.

“Calling these public-access rules is an oxymoron,” said Jeff Tittel, director of the New Jersey chapter of the Sierra Club.

Final public hearings on the proposed amendments are scheduled for April 18 in Avalon and Long Branch.

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About this blog

Inquirer staff writer Amy S. Rosenberg has covered Philly police, city neighborhoods, Ed Rendell as mayor, the Jersey shore, Atlantic City, Miss America and the psychology of Eagles fans. She moved to Ventnor on July 3, 1995, which makes her a local, but not really.

Inquirer Staff Writer Jacqueline L. Urgo has spent every summer of her life at the Jersey Shore, and has lived there year-round for nearly 30 years, even fulfilling one of her bucket list dreams by once living in a house by the sea.

Since 1990, she has covered the waterfront for The Inquirer — from the Atlantic to the Delaware Bay shore — and some of the mainland in between. Along the way, she amassed an encyclopedic knowledge of this tear-it-down-and-build-it-back-up region, delving into the history and the hype of a place with a lot of unexpected stories to tell.

Amy S. Rosenberg
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