The Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) is holding a public hearing on Wednesday night in Long Branch to discuss proposed amendments to public access rules for beaches, bays and other waterways.
The meeting will begin at 6 p.m. in the Long Branch Council Chambers, at Long Branch City Hall, 344 Broadway.
"Wednesday’s hearings will focus only on amendments to the Public Access rule that the DEP proposed earlier this year in response to public comments on the initial public access rule proposal," a DEP release states.
According to the DEP, the proposed amendments will:
- 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.
DEP states that the public access rule will "improve and enhance public access to New Jersey’s beaches, bays and waterways through plans to be developed and implemented by municipalities and ultimately approved by the DEP."
It will require new commercial, residential and industrial development to provide public access to a beach, bay or waterway or "pay into a fund created by a municipality with an approved access plan," according to the release.
It will also encourage municipalities to work with the DEP to develop town-specific access rules.
The rule will expand the definition of public access so that includes "certain recreational facilities under the definition of amusement pier, thereby opening up opportunities for rehabilitation of piers," according to the DEP.
Finally, it will maintain all existing beach, bay and waterway access points and allow the DEP to "rank municipalities without approved access plans lower for shore protection funding projects."
Several public access advocacy groups are opposing the DEP's proposed amendments to the beach access rule and the rule itself, stating that they feel they do not address all the problems with public access.
Groups including The Surfrider Foundation, American Littoral Society, NY/NJ Baykeeper and Citizens’ Right to Access Beaches (CRAB), will hold a press conference on the beach in Elberon after walking through a state-designated public access point reading “private property” in Long Branch on Wednesday to show and voice their concerns.
"The NJ DEP has been working to revise rules on public access to waterways for two years," a release from the groups. "Public access advocates have made NJ DEP aware of a number of such problem spots along the coast."
"Despite revising their 2011 proposed rules, the NJ DEP has not addressed all of the concerns of the advocates, nor have they corrected the illegal barriers to access," the release continues.
The demonstration will be held on the beach at the end of Garfield Terrace in Elberon at 4 p.m. The group states that even though the site states "private property," it is still listed on the DEP's map of public access points along the New Jersey Coast.