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Implementing Municipal Public Access Plans
Management and Maintenance
Maintaining Public Access

Source: NJ Department of Environmental Protection, Division of Coastal Resources, Waterfront Public Access: Design Guidelines by The Fellows Read Organization, Trenton, NJ, 1989, print

Chapter 5- Maintaining Public Access:  Maintenance
The solution to the maintenance question differs depending upon the location of public access elements and the type(s) of adjacent uses. If public waterfront promenades or plazas are incorporated into a commercial development, they should be maintained by the owner or operator of the commercial facilities. The waterfront features in such development would be a part of the overall site and would provide an amenity for its customers/clients/occupants. Restaurant, retail shops, and other commercial establishments generally assume the cost of public access because they encourage the public to use their facilities or to visit their businesses. Maintenance of the waterfront features should be part of the overall maintenance of the site.

Waterfront public access features on public land, such as within a municipal, county, or state park, similarly should be maintained by the caretakers of the surrounding land. Maintenance is part of the public provision of park services. Although the cost of liability insurance is an expensive portion of park maintenance and may be exacerbated by a waterfront location, waterfront parks are an important part of the local and regional open space resources. People enjoy waterfront parks, and park departments and commissions should strive to provide pleasant recreation facilities for their constituents. Although maintenance including liability is expensive, it is a vital part of the public role. Financial assistance for municipally-run waterfront parks, particularly for liability insurance deserves further consideration.  

The situation of a publicly accessible waterfront feature within a private, non-commercial development raises questions which are more difficult to answer. Innovative and negotiated solutions may be the best way to address public access maintenance in areas with no easily identifiable caretaker.

Waterfront access must be maintained but the question of who takes on the responsibility may vary depending on the individual situation and circumstance. In some instances, a reasonable user fee may be charged to help defray maintenance costs. A number of potential maintenance arrangements are briefly described below:

  • Municipal Park and Recreation Departments
    In areas where privately owned waterfront accessways are adjacent to municipal parks, the municipality may be willing to accept some of the responsibility for maintenance. Perhaps the private landowner could contribute funds to help pay the costs associated with maintenance while the municipality provides the labor from its parks and recreation department staff. Thus the landowner could reduce costs by eliminating the burden of maintaining the waterfront access, while the municipality could use the funds to help defray the fixed cost of municipal worker who would be required to maintain other municipal parks.
  • County Park Commissions
    Since access to our waterfronts is a regional recreation resource, the county park commission may be able to take on responsibility for maintaining waterfront accessways. Involvement by the county would most be likely in instances where an extensive waterfront path system connects more than one municipality with in the county.
  • Regional Open Space and Conservation Organizations
    In cases where land trusts or other conservation organizations have acquired waterfront sites for public access, they will either maintain the resources themselves or attempt to transfer maintenance responsibility to a local parks department.  If the municipality has other adjacent parks and is adequately equipped, such an arrangement may be a viable solution.  In other instances, volunteer efforts may be available to help with the labor involved in maintenance operations, but may not be a reliable long term solution.
  • Private Residential Condominium or Home-owners Associations
    In situations where a residential development is adjacent to waterfront public access, the maintenance may become the responsibility of the condominium or home-owners association. Where a developer builds the residential development and establishes the association, a plan for public access maintenance should be devised as part of the overall maintenance program for the development. For example, a fund could be established at the outset, with an initial contribution from the developer, for operation and maintenance of the waterfront access elements. The keys to the creation of successful waterfront public access within a residential development are good, sensitive design and forethought on the maintenance issue. These factors are integral to the successful waterfront public access and should be considered very early in the planning and development of the project.

    In other instances, a private developer may construct public access improvements and then dedicate an access easement or deed the waterfront land to the municipality. In the case of an easement, the developer could continue to maintain the accessway, or the municipality could assume future maintenance responsibility. If a town accepts the deed for a waterfront land and no other maintenance arrangements are made, the municipality would be responsible for the future maintenance of the public access.
  • Volunteer Organizations/Donations
    Local civic or social organizations may be able to accept maintenance responsibility for local waterfront parks. For example a boy/girl scout troop may “adopt” a waterfront park and contribute their labor in removing litter and doing regular maintenance, such as painting and minor repairs. The volunteer labor may be matched with funding from local businesses or developments which benefits from the waterfront.
  • Corporate contributions
    The “Monmouth County Bayshore Waterfront Access Plan” encourages corporations to “adopt-a park” and help maintain waterfront access. These programs demonstrate local commitment and a corporate good neighbor policy. 
 

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Last Updated: March 21, 2014