NJ - Jersey Shore Town, State At Odds Over Sunday Beach Restrictions
State officials say the long-held rule prohibiting beach access on Sunday mornings is not compliant with NJ law.
OCEAN GROVE, NJ - State officials say a Jersey Shore town’s long-held rule prohibiting beach access on Sunday mornings is not compliant with New Jersey law, according to a letter sharedby the community advocacy group Neptune United.
In the Ocean Grove section of Neptune Township, which is controlled by the Christian Methodist group Ocean Grove Camp Meeting Association, access to the beach is restricted before noon on Sundays through Sept. 3, when the beach closes for the season.
But the camp meeting association, which owns much of the land in Ocean Grove, was sent a warning by the state last month, which denounced the use of chain and padlock barriers blocking beach access on Sunday mornings. The action specifically violates a special condition of the Coastal Area Facility Review Act surrounding public access to the beach during daylight hours, Bureau of Coastal and Land Use Compliance and Enforcement Regional Supervisor Robert H. Clark said in the letter.
NJ.com initially reported on the exchange.
“Please be advised that the DEP may continue to monitor the site for compliance and we are available to provide guidance as needed,” Clark wrote.
NY Post, September 2, 2023
In a response to the DEP provided to NJ.com, Michael Badger, the president of the Ocean Grove Camp Meeting Association, said the closure “enhances religious and secular quality of life experiences in Ocean Grove which society recognizes as valuable.”
The camp meeting association has not been issued any fines from the Department of Environmental Protection, the outlet reported.
The policy to close Ocean Grove beach access has been in place for 154 years, Badger told the outlet, and 2023 marked the first year the association was met with complaints.
This isn’t the first time the camp meeting association has been the subject of controversy in recent years. Earlier this year, the group drew criticism from some locals after rebuilding a cross-shaped pier by the waterfront.
Shane Martins, an attorney who lives in Ocean Grove and sits on the Neptune Zoning Board, said last summer he was going to ask the ACLU to look into the legality of cross-shaped pier.
"This is Christian nationalism," Martins said at the time. "We are not a Christian nation; we are a nation that has many Christians in it.”
One Ocean Grove resident, Douglas Grote, told Patch last year he donated $50 to a fundraising campaign to help build the new pier, but added he never would have donated had he first seen a rendering that the pier would be in the shape of a cross.