Public Access Update

by John Toth
(from Jersey Coast Anglers Association March 2018 Newsletter)

I have written several articles in the JCAA newsletter about public access issues, especially as it relates to anglers trying to have access to fishing locations that dot our shoreline. I spent four days in Trenton with a large number of groups, up to about 50 people or more, trying to hammer out language that can be used by Senator Smith to help him craft a bill that he could use to advance public access to our beaches and at other locations. Senator Smith wanted the NY/NJ Baykeeper, American Littoral Society, NJ Chamber of Commerce, and the NJ Business and Industry Association to give him the language for his bill by working with a broad range of representatives from various organizations. I represented the JCAA and the New Jersey Outdoor Alliance at these meetings.

Coming to a consensus with this large group of people protecting their own interests proved to be very difficult. For example, I remember a person representing a certain municipality at one of these meetings saying “When Sandy Hook Park closes, all those people want to come down to our town and use ‘our’ beaches.” When she said that, I envisioned a large horde of barbarians riding on their horses to that town to pillage it. A glaring example is Sea Bright that has stairways over their wall with signs that say only locals can use them and no parking is allowed by the wall. There are many other examples, but you get the picture. Several years have gone by, but resolution to craft a Public Access Bill seemed to be a goal that was unreachable. That has changed!

Legislation, unanimously approved and released by the Senate Environment Committee on February, 2018 addresses many of the long-standing problems which have denied public access to state waters under the Public Trust Doctrine. The language to do this had to be hammered out over a long time with competing interest groups. Tim Dillingham, Executive Director, American Littoral Society, took a lead role in making this happen. While this has come out of Senator Smith’s committee, it still has to be posted for a vote in the Senate and Assembly.

Tim Dillingham has requested organizations to sign on to his letter requesting Senator Paul Sarlo, Chairman, Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee to post Senate Bill 1074 for a vote. Approximately 15 organizations have signed on to this letter, including the JCAA and the NJOA, to post this bill.

So, we may finally see some action for resolution to a long-standing problem. I will keep you posted on its progress.

[News Contents] [Top]