Acquiring Access
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Acquiring and Transferring Access

  • People desiring access to a beach or shore across privately held land can purchase the right by buying/acquiring the land outright.
  • Landowners can transfer, or "convey," by donation or sale, all or part of the ownership interest of their land.
  • A landowner can convey her land or limited path across it to anyone she wishes. In this circumstance, a landowner may control how the land is used and even give herself the right to get the land back if terms or conditions aren't met.
  • Acquisition or conveyance of land, also called transferring land, is typically achieved through a contract, although it could also be done through a will or some other legal instrument.

What rights of access can be transferred?

Public access rights can be transferred in full interest of private property rights, or partial interest, as in easements or user agreements.

To whom can access be transferred?

Landowners can transfer interest of their land to individuals, or to entities, organizations and agencies that have public access as part of their purpose, which can include land trusts, local, state and federal governments, and private trusts.

How can access be enhanced, secured, granted, or created?

Parties can transfer property ownership interest (either the complete title, or a subgroup of rights) through a variety of means, including buying it outright, or partially through easements, conservation easement, development rights, or leases. These interests can be purchased at or below market value, or can be donated depending on the wishes of and related tax benefits to the private property holder. The interests can be conveyed unconditionally or with conditions attached.

If the property owner is not a willing seller, the government can exercise its rights to acquire the land through eminent domain. More on eminent domain.

What are the tools for granting access?

  • Sale or donation of easements or partial property interest: Easements allow the right to the use of real property interest of another for a specific purpose. There are a number of kinds of easements and ways that they can address access, including conservation easements, conservation restrictions, development rights, and floating easements. Because easements do not require the entire parcel, they are significantly cheaper than full title acquisition and are becoming an important and increasingly common tool for addressing coastal access needs. More on Easements.
  • Developing covenants or written promises about the land: Covenants can be used to specifically address ways that landowners legally promise to address water access on their land. Some examples include:

What existing programs can help with the transfer of land that includes access rights?

Land Trusts
Land Trusts and conservation organizations can serve as third party interests in addressing access issues. For more information, contact New Jersey Conservation Foundation, the Land Trust Alliance, and The Trust for Public Lands.

Where can I find more information?

ANJEC Association of New Jersey Environmental Commissions
Department of Environmental Protection- Division of Land Use Regulation