New Jersey trying to write public waterways access into law

ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. (AP) — Governments as far back as the Roman Empire have recognized it, but New Jersey is still trying to enshrine in law the public’s right to have access to waterways and shorelines.

A state Assembly committee advanced bills Monday that would expressly require the state’s Public Trust Doctrine to be applied to coastal development, protection and funding issues. The doctrine holds the state’s waterways, including the ocean, bays and rivers, are common property held in trust by the state for the use of all people. It has been at the heart of decades of battles between access advocates and government and private property owners in a state where demand for access to the water remains high. Business interests want to water down the extent to which public access would be required.