Advocates sue Shore town over beach access

A beach in Deal, N.J. on Oct. 4, 2015. (Corinne Cavallo/FotoCavallo)

A beach in Deal, N.J. on Oct. 4, 2015. (Corinne Cavallo/FotoCavallo)

An environmental advocacy organization has filed a lawsuit against a Jersey Shore town, saying the action is to protect public beach access.

The Highlands-based American Littoral Society says Monmouth County’s Deal Borough sold the end of Neptune Avenue to waterfront developer ICC Neptune Avenue, LLC, which owns an adjacent lot, for $1 million.

“Neptune Avenue is used by the general public, fishermen, and surfers to access the beach for recreational uses,” said Tim Dillingham, Executive Director of the American Littoral Society. “We are taking this action to prevent the loss of this important public accessway to the beach, and to ensure that other towns aren’t tempted to sell off the public’s rights to the highest bidder.”

The street end is included as a beach access point on the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection’s New Jersey Public Access locations website, Dillingham added.

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Andrew Provence, legal counsel to the organization, says New Jersey courts in the 1850s recognized the value of street ends in providing the public access to the shore.

“It is important to fight this new notion that street ends — which are not typically owned by municipalities — can be vacated for the right price,” he said.

The Asbury Park Press reported that Deal Mayor Sam Cohen claimed Neptune Avenue never provided beach access and that the proposal will provide a sidewalk to the ocean.

He added that people used the Neptune Avenue access to avoid paying for a beach badge at the nearby official beach access.

Andrew Chambarry, an attorney and the immediate past chair of the New Jersey Chapter of the Surfrider Foundation, says he supports the lawsuit.

“Municipalities frequently attempt to limit access by vacating street ends with access to the beach. I’m proud to stand with American Littoral Society, and the locals who have put in the time and effort to fight discriminatory beach practices,” he said.

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