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Municipal Public Access Planning

Municipalities have the opportunity to develop public access plans that reflect their self-determined priorities for enhancing public access to tidal waters.  Municipal Public Access Plans comprehensively inventory a town’s current public access points and amenities, identify gaps in public access opportunities, and propose actions to address those needs while preserving existing access.  DEP planning professionals in the Division of Coastal and Land Use Planning are available to assist towns in this valuable planning effort.

Public Access Rule
The public rights of access to and use of the tidal waterways and their shores are based in the common law rule of the Public Trust Doctrine, first codified by the Roman Emperor Justinian around 500 AD as civil law. It establishes the public’s right to full use of the seashore. The current rule stems from this but has been modified by legal decisions and recent implementation policies.

DEP Review and Approval Process
The review and approval process for municipal public access plans has been clearly defined by N.J.A.C. 7:7 and N.J.A.C. 7:7E which describe  the roles and actions, review criteria, public comment process, revisions and revocations as needed.

Developing Municipal Public Access Plans
Municipalities have the opportunity to develop public access plans that reflect their self-determined priorities for enhancing public access to tidal waters.  These plans comprehensively inventory a community’s current public access points and amenities, identify gaps in public access opportunities, and propose actions to address those needs while preserving existing access.  DEP planning professionals in the Division of Coastal and Land Use Planning are available to assist towns in this valuable planning effort.
  
Public Access Planning and Design
Public Access Planning preserves and enhances an important right for the public. Access to our rivers and oceans and the lands associated with them is vital to our quality of life and for many communities their economic and environmental health. Residents, community leaders, businesses and non-profits need to understand the complex interrelationships between social, economic and environmental values in coastal areas and work together to balance multiple uses and needs. This understanding will assist them in planning and implementing the efficient use of their land, energy and water resources and help them protect and sustain coastal ecosystems and their communities.

Implementing Municipal Public Access Plans
The implementation of municipal public access plans requires the collaboration of many entities and involves many different activities. Examples of various roles and responsibilities, actions and tools are provided here to assist in the creation of an implementation plan and in its effective use.

Municipal Public Access Plans
Within New Jersey, 231 municipalities have been determined to be eligible to develop and implement municipal public access plans. In an ongoing process, draft plans and approved plans are posted for public information and review.

Public Comment Process
Public notification, engagement and comment are important aspects of public access planning. The rules provide for the notification of the public and the receipt of their comments.

Special Area Plans
Regional and focused local access plans should be considered in the development of municipal public access plans. A range of plans potentially impacting New Jersey public access are provided for review.

Transportation Plans
Both the NJ Department of Transportation and the NJ Counties provide public access locations from their roads, bridges and associated properties. These locations can supplement the municipal public access locations and should be considered when developing the municipal public access plan. Municipalities should include them within their inventories.

Municipal Public Access Plan Contact

Municipal Public Access Plan FAQ

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Last Updated: March 21, 2014