Toms River to Pay $244,000 to Fix Eroded Beach as Residents Criticize ‘Private’ Beach Owners

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TOMS RIVER, NJ – As Toms River Township officials approved a $244,000 contract with Vulcan Construction Group of Burlington County to replenish beach sand lost during the early may nor’easter, residents took to the podium at town hall to complain about restrictive beach access.

Many communities in Toms River are billed as ‘private beaches’ and residents asked the town to install signs to notify the public about public beach access at those so-called private beaches.

Although public beach access is available at the township-owned beachfront in Ortley Beach, Toms River residents say their Toms River Purchased beach badges should be acceptable on any beach within the township, even those that claim to be private.

The push comes as residents who don’t live in those private beachfront communities continue to see their tax dollars dumped into repairing and replenishing private beaches.

According to NJ law, all communities must provide access to beaches.

“The public rights of access to and use of the tidal waterways and their shores are based in the common law rule of the Public Trust Doctrine, first codified by the Roman Emperor Justinian around 500 AD as civil law. It establishes the public’s right to full use of the seashore. The current rule stems from this but has been modified by legal decisions and recent implementation policies,” the NJ DEP said.

The Pubic Trust Doctrine provides that public rights to tidal waterways and their shores in the state are held by the state in trust for the benefit of all of the people. Further, it establishes the right of the public to fully utilize these lands and waters for a variety of public activities. While the original purpose of the Public Trust Doctrine was to assure public access for navigation, commerce and fishing, in the past two centuries, state and federal courts have recognized that modern uses of tidal waterways and their shores are also protected by the Public Trust Doctrine. In New Jersey, the Public Trust Doctrine recognizes and protects natural resources as well as recreational uses such as bathing swimming, sunbathing, and walking along tidal waterways and their shores.

Council President Kevin Geohegan would not commit to installing signs alerting the public to public beach access points at those private beaches.

Related: Toms River’s Geoghegan Fired, Dems and Republicans United in 5-0 vote

Geoghegan acknowledged the ‘private’ beach owners would not be happy with such signs.

The township’s $244,000 beach replenishment project is expected to be completed within 18 days of its start, according to the township.

Read our exclusive feature on why some think dumping more sand on New Jersey beaches is doing more longterm harm than good.

Related: NJ Coastal Alliance Says Army Corps Beach Projects Doing More Harm than Good at the Jersey Shore