Request Governor Murphy to Sign Public Access Bill

by John Toth
(from Jersey Coast Anglers Association May 2019 Newsletter)

In 2015, the Hackensack Riverkeeper won an appeal of the NJ DEP’s Public Access Proposal since it would have stripped back protections for the Public Trust Doctrine. This Doctrine, an ancient concept from, even Roman times, held that a government body holds tidally lands in trust for the public to use and enjoy. In short, our beaches belong to everybody to use, not just for a few individuals.

Shortly after this appeal, Senator Bob Smith, head of the Senate’s Environmental and Energy Committee, convened a task force in 2016 to help the legislature develop a Public Access Bill which would codify and strengthen state obligations to the Public Trust Doctrine. This task force was comprised of members from various organizations and led by the American Littoral Society and the NY/NJ Baykeeper. I was a member of this task force representing the JCAA, NJOA and the Salt Water Anglers of Bergen County. I attended three task force meetings in Trenton during 2016 and these meetings were often contentious at times with the municipalities and business groups resisting more public access to our beaches. Approximately 40-50 people were in attendance at these meetings and all of them were advancing their special interests that added to this contention. Senator Smith held a number of public hearings to determine what should go into this new access bill and almost after three years of meetings, emails and phone calls, our legislature finally approved a final Public Access Bill (S) 1074 that is now waiting for the Governor Murphy to sign.

George Browne, JCAA’s Access Chairman, has also been deeply involved in this access issue and has seen firsthand how municipalities have tried to restrict access to beaches by restricting or reducing parking spaces, putting up gates or fences by access areas that have been used by surf anglers for many years or even asking anglers to buy beach tags to surf fish.

George wrote the text for the Call to Action article that appeared in a recent JCAA Email Blast urging anglers to contact Governor Murphy to sign bill (S) 1074. George has supplied Governor Murphy’s both mailing and email address information along with other useful information you can use in your communication to the Governor.

Beach access for us anglers has been an ongoing problem for many years and one that is resistant to change. This is probably our best opportunity to make to change things around so that we don’t see gates or fences blocking anglers to fish on our state’s beaches. Please take the time to contact the Governor using the following information supplied by George for us.

I want to Thank George for helping all of us in trying to improve access for our recreational community. I also want to thank Ken Warchal for preparing the Call To Action Email blast for the JCAA that will certainly be helpful in gaining Governor Murphy to sign Bill(S) 1074.

Call to Action Email Blast

The NJ Senate and Assembly passed Senate Bill S1074 (the public access to certain public trust lands bill) on March 25, 2019.

IN ORDER TO GET THE GOVERNOR TO SIGN THE PUBLIC ACCESS BILL WE NEED TO HAVE HIM HEAR OUR VOICES. YOU ARE BEING ASKED TO DO ONE OF THREE THINGS IN ORDER TO BE HEARD.

  1. Send an Email – To submit an email, go to this link. Consider using the following wordage for the email:
    I am asking that you sign Senate Bill S1074 into law. NJ has a long history of protecting the rights of the public to access the ocean, bays, and tidal rivers through the public trust doctrine. In direct violation of the public trust doctrine, we have seen towns in NJ arbitrarily adopt local ordinances that are intended to block public access. NJ needs a single set of regulations that can be uniformly applied to protect our rights. S1074 will allow the DEP to create regulations to do that that.
  2. Call the Governor’s Office at (609) 292-6000 – When they answer, simply tell them you are asking the Governor to sign S1074, the public access bill. You do not have to leave your name.
  3. Write a Letter - If you want to write a letter here is the address
    Governor Phil Murphy 125 W State St Trenton, NJ 08608
    For your letter, you can use the bullet points from above and add:
    • New Jersey’s tourism industry generated $38.2 billion in 2016. That amounts to 6.5% of the entire state economy.
    • Tourists use New Jersey’s ocean beaches as well as the bays and tidal rivers for recreation which requires public access.
    • New Jersey's recreational saltwater anglers annually spend over $300 million on bait & tackle.
    • In total, when boats and other fishing related equipment are added to what anglers spend each year in NJ, recreational fishing produces over $2.4 billion in sales and income.
    • Recreational saltwater fishing employs 15,000 people.
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