DEP PROPOSES COMMON SENSE RULE TO ENHANCE
TO BEACHES AND WATERWAYS
(11/P44) TRENTON - The Department of Environmental Protection today formally proposed new common sense rules to improve and enhance public access to New Jersey's beaches, bays and waterways through plans to be developed and implemented by municipalities and ultimately approved by the DEP, Commissioner Bob Martin announced.
The revisions to the State's Coastal Zone Management rule were developed after extensive input and review by local governments, recreational interests, public access advocates, business leaders, and members of the public. They will build upon the years of success New Jersey has had in providing access to these important natural resources while helping municipalities identify ways they can make access even better, Commissioner Martin said.
"Access to our ocean beaches, bays and rivers is a fundamental right for everyone," said Commissioner Martin. "As millions of residents and visitors know, New Jersey already has wonderful access, with a multitude of different experiences to suit everyone's tastes and needs. By implementing some common sense practices and principles, we will build a comprehensive means for the public to have broad, diversified, safe, and reasonable access to tidal waters throughout New Jersey - and do so in a way that builds local-state partnerships, not discord."
"The DEP will work with towns and cities to craft access plans that make local sense and protect the rights and needs of residents and businesses, instead of imposing one-size-fits-all, state-dictated access rules. The Department, however, still has final authority to approve any municipal access plans. The plans must ultimately meet the needs of the public.''
The proposed new rules recognize that the Jersey Shore and waterfronts are diverse, dynamic areas that provide a wide range of public access opportunities, from beach access to swimming areas, from places to congregate to places for solitude, and from places to launch a boat or kayak to places to fish. It recognizes that legitimate recreational opportunities also include the ability to have restaurants and other public establishments along the waterfronts, in appropriate locations.
The DEP understands that more meaningful public access to tidal waters in urban areas also must be provided. The Department already has begun work with officials in several urban municipalities to help them meet the waterfront access needs of their residents.
The official Public Access Rule, appearing in the new issue of the New Jersey Register, proposes a number of measures to ensure proper access is offered, including assisting and providing local governments in developing Municipal Public Access Plans, dedicating State Green Acres Program funds and other State resources to implement local plans, and effectively communicating the wealth of public access opportunities already available in New Jersey.
The Public Access Rule was developed after the courts struck down a rule adopted by the previous administration that, among other things, required 24/7 access to waterways, even in industrial and port areas along rivers, and allowed the DEP to deny funding for beach replenishment projects if municipalities did not meet the strict letter of the rules. The court also struck down parking and public restroom requirements. The top-down regulations left cities and towns out of the planning process, and proved to be too costly and unwieldy with little public benefit.
"This rule will direct public access opportunities to places where it's safe and appropriate, without placing undue economic burdens on existing port or industrial facilities such as refineries," said Ray Cantor, Chief Advisor to Commissioner Martin. "In short, this is a balanced strategy that will promote urban waterfront development and that looks to work with people and local governments, not against them."
Under the common sense rule proposed today, municipalities that develop public access plans will be able to determine and direct public access uniquely suited to each community.
Specifically, the rule:
- Requires new commercial, residential and industrial development to provide public access or pay into a fund created by a municipality with an approved access plan;
- Encourages municipalities to work with the Department to develop town-specific municipal public access plans;
- Expands the definition public access to include certain recreational facilities under the definition amusement pier, thereby opening up opportunities for rehabilitation of piers;
- Maintains all existing public access along the Shore and waterfronts;
- Enables the DEP to rank municipalities without approved access plans lower for shore protection funding projects.
To assist the public, the DEP has launched a Web site http://www.state.nj.us/dep/cmp/access/ that has a wealth of information about public access points, including public restroom and parking facilities, amenities such as restaurants, boat and kayak launches, marinas, water quality, handicapped facilities, and places to fish. This guide will enable people to choose the ideal location for them to enjoy New Jersey's coastal and other tidal waters.
Public hearings are scheduled on May 12, 11 a.m. at Liberty State Park, Jersey City; and May 17, 11 a.m., at Richard Stockton College, Pomona. Written comments may be submitted through June 3 to: N.J. Department of Environmental Protection, Gary Brower, Esq., ATTN: DEP Docket No. 05-11-03, Office of Legal Affairs, 401 East State Street, 4th Floor, PO Box 402, Trenton, New Jersey 08625. To read the rule proposal, and for information on submitting comments and the public hearings, visit: http://www.nj.gov/dep/rules/notices/040411a.html