MANTOLOKING — In Mantoloking, beachgoers can only park their cars on public streets for two hours. That’s two hours — max — within the entire 24-hour day.
In parts of Long Beach Island like the Loveladies section of Long Beach Township, many streets dead-end into private driveways with signs warning “Private drive. No public beach access.”
In Sea Bright, there’s little if any on-street parking along much of the sea wall taking up a good chunk of the oceanfront.
And in many places, you can’t even eat on the beach or find a bathroom within walking distance.
All of this has worked to keep outsiders away, because only local residents who live near the beach — and can walk home to eat or answer nature’s call — can effectively use that beach.
New Jersey is trying a new way to address the problem. Instead of imposing a uniform standard that all shore towns must meet, it is letting individual shore communities decide what level of access is right for them, although those decisions must be approved by the state.
Robert Martin, the state’s environmental protection commissioner, says the state can accomplish more by working with beach towns than by burying them in regulations. The new beach access regulations the state will unveil on Monday aim to accomplish that goal.
“Access to our beaches, bays and rivers is a fundamental right for everyone,” he said. “We firmly believe that. I’m adamant about that, and so is the governor.”
Martin said there are more than 1,000 public access points along New Jersey’s 127-mile ocean coast, which he termed “wonderful access.”
The new rules ask — but don’t require — coastal towns to adopt a public access plan spelling out exactly where the public can get to the beach. For towns that balk, the state has several punishments it can mete out. One is cutting the town off from open space funding under the state Green Acres program. Another is ranking that town lower on the state’s funding recommendation list for beach replenishment money. And a third is denying the town permits for beach and dune maintenance.