DEP PROPOSES AMENDED RULES TO ENHANCE PUBLIC ACCESS TO BEACHES AND WATERWAYS CHANGES MADE IN RESPONSE TO PUBLIC COMMENTS
(12/P28) TRENTON - After considering numerous public comments, the Department of Environmental Protection today formally proposed amended common sense rules to improve and enhance public access to New Jersey's beaches, bays and waterways, DEP Commissioner Bob Martin announced today.
In particular, the DEP has proposed changes that provide greater public access for fishermen across the state, enhanced opportunities for the public to participate in the crafting of municipal public access plans, and clarified the protection and continuity of the Hudson River walkway, while also clarifying rules regarding marinas.
"Providing ample access to our ocean beaches, bays and rivers is a fundamental right for all residents of New Jersey, and the driving force behind these rules," said Commissioner Martin. "We heard the suggestions and concerns expressed by many of our residents during a very robust public comment period over the past year and have responded by making changes to the proposed rules, especially recognizing the needs of the fishing community in New Jersey.
The amendments, published today in the State Register, include the following:
- Provide enhanced public access for recreational fishermen by ensuring that municipal public access plans include defined and guaranteed points of access for day and night fishing.
- Provide greater transparency and public involvement in development of municipal public access plans by ensuring that proposed access plans are posted on the DEP website and that the public has an opportunity to comment on them.
- Do not require marinas to expand access when improving existing facilities, but development on adjacent sites would require marina owners to provide public access plans
- Mandate public access to and along the main route of the Hudson Waterfront Walkway and adjacent piers on a 24-hour basis except in very limited circumstances, and requires conformance to existing Hudson Walkway design guidelines and standards.
Public hearings on the amended rules are scheduled on April 18 in Avalon and Long Branch.
To read the proposed rules amendments visit: http://www.nj.gov/dep/rules/proposals/20120319a.pdf
Commissioner Martin noted the DEP will work closely with towns and cities to craft access plans that make local sense and protect the rights and needs of residents and businesses, instead of imposing one-size-fits-all, state-dictated access rules. He stressed that all public access plans developed by municipalities require approval of the DEP, which has final authority over them.
The DEP will assist local governments in developing Municipal Public Access Plans, dedicating state Green Acres Program funds and other state resources to implement local plans, and effectively communicating the wealth of public access already available in New Jersey.
The proposed access rules recognize the Jersey Shore and waterfronts are diverse, dynamic areas that provide a wide range of public access opportunities, from beach access to swimming areas, from places to congregate to places for solitude, and from places to surf, launch a boat, kayak or fish. They also recognize that legitimate recreational opportunities also include the ability to have restaurants and other public establishments along the waterfronts, in appropriate locations.
The DEP also understands the need for meaningful public access to tidal waters in urban areas.
The environmental health and public accessibility of the ocean, shore and tidal waterways also are inextricably tied to New Jersey's economic health. Tourism, much of which is tied to Shore communities, is a $38 billion per year industry in New Jersey.
The Department in 2010 undertook its review of the public access rules, in part, because the courts struck down provisions of existing rules, the Legislature put a moratorium on implementation of provisions requiring marina access, and the DEP recognized that a more common sense approach to the rules could enhance access.
To assist the public, the DEP has launched a Web site http://www.nj.gov/dep/cmp/access/ that has a wealth of information about public access points, including public restroom and parking facilities, amenities such as restaurants, boat and kayak launches marinas, water quality, handicapped facilities, and places to fish. This guide will enable people to choose the ideal location for them to enjoy New Jersey's coastal and other tidal waters.
Public hearings concerning the amended rules are scheduled on April 18, 11 a.m. in Avalon, at the Avalon Municipal Court Meeting Room, 3100 Dune Drive, Avalon, N.J. 08202; and April 18, 5 p.m. in Long Branch, at the Long Branch Municipal Council Chambers, 344 Broadway, 2nd floor, Long Branch, N.J. 07740. For more information on the hearings visit: http://www.nj.gov/dep/rules/notices/20120319a.html
Written comments may be submitted through May 18, electronically at http://www.nj.gov/dep/rules/comments or in hard copy to N.J. Department of Environmental Protection, Gary Brower, Esq., Attn: DEP Docket No. 05-11-03, Office of Legal Affairs, Mail Code 401-04L, P.O. Box 402, 401 East State Street, Floor 4, Trenton, NJ 08625-0402.