TRENTON - People who want to make sure they can get onto the sand in New Jersey without a court order swamped the governor's office with more than 1,000 "Dear Gov. Christie" postcards yesterday, asking him not to water down a right that dates to the Roman Empire.
The cards from residents and vacationers from as far away as Canada ask Christie to reject the state Department of Environmental Protection's proposal to let towns decide where and when access to the sand should be provided, subject to state approval.
Michael Drewniak, Christie's press secretary, countered: "There presently are no access rules, given that they've been struck down, and we are not cutting back on access whatsoever," he said. The state rewrote its beach-access rules this year, saying its hand had been forced by a 2008 appeals-court ruling that struck down more specific rules requiring public-access points every quarter-mile, as well as parking and rest rooms near beaches.
Under the Public Trust Doctrine, a concept adopted by New Jersey that dates to the Roman Emperor Justinian, the public has the right to swim in coastal waters and walk along shores. Courts have held that the public has the right to walk or sit on the sand up to the mean high-water mark.