New Jersey Environment News

New Jersey trying to write public waterways access into law

ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. -- Governments as far back as the Roman Empire have recognized it, but New Jersey is trying to enshrine in law the public's right to access waterways and shorelines.

A state Assembly committee advanced bills Monday that would expressly require the state's Public Trust Doctrine to be applied to coastal development, protection and funding issues.

The doctrine holds that the state's waterways including the ocean, bays and rivers are common property held in trust by the state for the use of all people.

It has been at the heart of decades of battles between access advocates and government and private property owners in a state where demand for access to the water remains high, but so do physical and legal obstacles.

Some local communities have actively worked to discourage outsiders from using their beaches by restricting beach badge sales to residents-only (something that was struck down by the courts); drastically limiting public parking, prohibiting food on the beach, and refusing to provide public restrooms.

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