The Department of Environmental Protection is seeking public comment on new beach-access rules, described as a compromise that will let people enjoy the water without imposing demands on shore towns. The proposed regulations roll back the requirement that towns provide 24-hour beach access to receive state funds for beach-replenishment projects. Jersey Shore towns like Barnegat Light or Stafford Township can set beach curfews, businesses can expand or renovate without adding more water access and the state will not withhold beach-replenishment money from resort towns that want their own stricter rules.
Likewise, marinas along The Jersey Shore will not have to provide 24-hour access to the public if they want to renovate or expand their operations, and towns will not have to subscribe to strict rules about parking, public restrooms or beach access at state-designated intervals. And existing businesses will not have to provide new public access if they want to repair or expand.
Not everyone is a fan of the DEP's kinder, gentler approach to beach rules.The New Jersey chapter of the Sierra Club said the new rules are too lax and could limit public access to the water. "We knew the old rules were a bit of a reach, but we think the department went too far the other way," said Sierra Club spokesman Jeff Tittel.
The new rules, which will be drafted on a town-by-town basis, seem to give too much ground to Jersey Shore municipalities like Beach Haven and Surf City that might see cost-savings in curbing waterway access. The concern they have is there is no requirement for the towns to commit to public access. There is no hook to make them comply because (the DEP) took the beach-money incentive away. And there are no penalties for towns that do not comply.
In Long Beach Township, the public is denied entry to beach spans of up to two miles. In the Loveladies and North Beach (like Barnegat Light) sections, where street parking is prohibited and there are no public lots, there is virtually nowhere to leave a vehicle. Restrooms are equally rare.
With the new rulses, there is no real standard for what should be in a town's plan - so many access points per mile of beachfront, so many restrooms, and so many parking spaces. You don't want to make the rules hard and fast, but you want a range so towns have guidance, which could lead to less beach access along The Jersey Shore.
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