Public Access Update

by George Browne, JCAA Access Chairman
(from Jersey Coast Anglers Association September 2019 Newsletter)

On Tuesday, July 30th, there was a meeting at the NJDEP offices in Trenton. The meeting was with stakeholders who are public access users and their views on the creation of new regulations required under the new public access law. There was another meeting on August 12th with stakeholders such as towns, marina owners, and others who are responsible for the lands where the public access locations are or will be.

The DEP has 18 months to develop and implement the regulations and is planning to follow this schedule:

On behalf of the JCAA, I spoke about 6 river and bay locations that are examples of where access is currently restricted or denied and how some of the restrictions favored residents over non-residents. Each of these locations was chosen because they represented what is wrong with public access in NJ, regardless of location, and the information could be verified.

I also discussed a project that is in the planning stages in Monmouth County. It was important to point out that the plan did not appear to provide adequate public access because it did not show parking or more than a single access point. A proposed public walkway was shown on the bay side of a planned stone revetment and the public walkway could be exposed to flooding and erosion that would further reduce or eliminate public access.

My final discussion, representing JCAA, included pointing out that the denial of public access is pervasive on many tidal bodies of water (rivers, bays, and the ocean) and includes both overt and covert methods (limiting parking, limiting the time you can park, requiring beach badges at all hours, and more). It was also pointed out, that as a result of the new legislation, we expected the DEP to provide the following:

The group of stakeholders at this meeting did offer to assist the DEP in realizing some of those expectations, but it did not seem to be something the DEP was interested in. Our expectations for DEP will only be met if we are actively engaged in fighting for their implementation. We need to make sure that DEP takes the lead in the fight for public access. If not, then we must go back to the sponsors of the law, the Governor and the DEP Commissioner to tell them that they need to make sure any new regulations meet those expectations.

This is going be a long fight, but one we must be part of. Right now, it is important that we go back to the stakeholder coalition and meet again to develop a plan that will deliver the most influence we can have on the new regulations. If we sit by the sidelines and do nothing, we will have only ourselves to blame.

“If you have time to whine and complain about something then you have the time to do something about it.” -Anthony J. D’Angelo

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