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Municipal Public Access Planning>Developing Municipal Public Access Plans>Scope and Policy

Scope and Policy 

The Department has long recognized public access to be a fundamental right and policy for the management of New Jersey’s coast.   At the core of the Department’s public access efforts is the Public Trust Doctrine, which acknowledges that the ownership, dominion and sovereignty over lands flowed by tidal waters, which extend to the mean high water mark, is vested in the State in trust for the people.  .

The Department believes that public access opportunities are not merely rooted in the Public Trust Doctrine, but rather in a robust modern implementation of an essential public need and right. The updated Coastal Zone Management (CZM) rule (N.J.A.C. 7:7E) is part of a larger program that ensures public access opportunities as well as develops a comprehensive means to provide for broad, diversified, safe, and reasonable access to tidal waters throughout the State. 

Through the updated CZM rule, the Department will work to support local and regional efforts to preserve and increase public access to beaches and waterfronts.  The Department will provide assistance to towns in the assessment of local access needs, analysis of legal issues, and other information and techniques to help enhance their waterfront-related activities.  The Department seeks to promote local economies without diminishing the long-term health of the natural coastal environment, so both the community and the greater region can benefit from any proposed enhancements. 

Coastal communities can effectively plan for and create public access that provides a sustainable economic benefit, improved quality of life for residents and visitors, and an environmental benefit.  In this effort, public access planning becomes part of a larger, comprehensive planning view that fosters regional cooperation and partnerships among local government officials, community stakeholders, and regional planning organizations.

The plans should review current public access opportunities within the municipality, the needs and desires of the public, and explore and plan for enhanced access opportunities.  The Department will provide municipalities with support to plan for comprehensive public access within their boundaries and incorporate these plans within their overall master plan.   The Department has professional staff to assist municipalities with the development of public access plans.

While it is recognized that nearly all the oceanfront municipalities do provide reasonable public access opportunities as evidenced by the large number of residents and tourists that enjoy and visit the shore, the Department believes that a comprehensive approach to public access through local plans and regional coordination can create meaningful enhancements to the coastal communities throughout the state.


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Last Updated: January 26, 2017