Deal, New Jersey, a little beach town in the northern part of the state, just tried to make itself a tidy $1 million by selling off the end of a street that accesses the beach. A developer thought where the beach meets Neptune Ave would make for a nice little building project. So he decided to buy that street end from Deal.
But surfers access the beach through that road. And if private owners are able to buy up beach access points for their own developments, they could potentially block access to those beaches. You see the issue here.
The American Littoral Society has filed a lawsuit against Deal, hoping to preserve that beach access for everybody.
“In the 1850s, our courts recognized the value of street ends in providing the public access to the shore,” said Andrew Provence, the lawyer for the Littoral Society, in a story at The Mercury. “It is important to fight this new notion that street ends … can be vacated for the right price.”
Deal insists that no barrier would be erected to prevent surfers, anglers, beachcombers, kite flyers, whatever, from getting to the beach from Neptune Ave.
“Ha,” say surfers in response. “We’ll believe that when we see it.”
The fear is that regardless of what Deal reps or the developer say now, once that land is theirs, it will suddenly seem a little too irresistible to ban surfers from walking through whatever ends up built there.
The town has a bit of a reputation for ticketing surfers and cars that don’t belong to residents and otherwise discouraging use of the beach access there by people who don’t own beachside property.
“They just don’t get that the beaches belong to everyone,” said John Weber, a city council member in nearby Bradley Beach. “Surfers, anglers, all sorts of people, not just people who live in their town.”
This guy gets it.
We’ve long seen battles in California over private property vs. public access at beaches and, clearly, it’s not just a west coast issue.
A lawsuit slowly making its way through Santa Barbara Superior Court is threatening to open Hollister Ranch (more on that later) and the Martin’s Beach saga is (finally?) over after SCOTUS swatted it away like a noisome fly.
Can we just access the beaches, please, rich people? We’re just gonna surf. You’re not using those waves anyway.