Common Law & Statutes More On...
Toolbox image

Coastal Access Toolkit
For information about drawing up contracts, transferring access, and More...

Law Books image

Common Law & Statutes
For information about land ownership and More...

Common Law and Statutes

What background legal principles govern coastal land ownership and access rights?

New Jersey is a state that follows the Public Trust Doctrine, essentially holding that the state is the trustee of tidal waterways seaward of the high tide line for the benefit of the public. Courts in New Jersey have addressed issues pertaining to both private and public coastal properties and the appropriate access which must be provided to the public.

The government has authority under its police powers to make laws protecting the welfare of its citizens, including regulating lands next to beaches and shores. The U.S. Constitution and many state constitutions also give the government the right to take private property under the power of eminent domain but only if the landowner receives appropriate compensation.

More on eminent domain and takings.

More on land ownership and trusts.

Who owns the shore in New Jersey?

Tidelands, submerged lands and filled lands are owned by the state in trust for the public under the Public Trust Doctrine. This generally entitles the public to use lands seaward of the mean high tide line for recreational purposes, and in some cases, also allows the public to use a reasonable amount of dry sand area.

Who owns the shore in NJ?

Which state statutes are relevant to access issues?

State laws affecting public access to the shore include:

Laws that require towns to take access needs into account in zoning and subdivision and review process:

Federal laws affecting public access to the shore include:

Where can I get more information?

For more information on the above laws, please see:

New Jersey Legislature

New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection: Division of Land Use Regulation-Coastal Permitting