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Bayshore Public Access Report

Public Access and Waterfront Development in New Jersey:
From the Arthur Kill to the Shrewsbury River!

New Jersey’s coastal communities are very important to the State’s economy and culture. In 2002 we began a study of the coastal communities of New Jersey’s northeastern comer, the “Bayshore” region, the Shrewsbury and Navesink area, and adjacent Atlantic coast “shore” towns. The goal was to better understand what is happening to those communities. In particular, we wanted to learn about changes occurring in each of the region’s municipalities as they affected the way that the waterfront is being developed. How do those changes affect traditional commercial uses of the waterfront, such as fishing and boat-building? How do they enhance or diminish public access to the beaches and waters, which are held by the State as public trust for New Jersey’s citizens?

Findings and Conclusions

The issue of public access has been given the highest priority by the Coastal Management Program of New Jersey’s Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), to meet its Section 309 requirements under the federal Coastal Zone Management Act. As of July 2001, when their latest report was written, the situation was one of a ” … general lack of information regarding the locations, number, extent and description of existing public access areas … ” as well as the lack of long-term monitoring of access conditions? Our project was intended to address this problem for one large area of the state.

The towns along the shore of Raritan Bay have shown strong commitment to public access. This reflects the history of commercial uses of the waterfront in this region, whether for fishing, tourist enterprises, shipping, or boatbuilding. Public access is also a major and longstanding issue dealt with by the Atlantic coast communities, heavily dependent on beachgoers for tourist revenues. In contrast are towns bordering the tidal rivers, where the river-fronts were long parts of private farms and estates and public access issues receive little attention.

While some communities do have increased public access as a goal, there does not appear to be a systematic or planned way for normalizing or increasing public access on a regional basis.

Most of the municipalities surveyed do not have specific waterfront elements in their Master Plans or zoning or ordinances that protect or promote public access or traditional waterfront uses. Some municipalities do not have updated Master Plans. This is problematic in that in order to bring about desired changes or outcomes for municipal planning, the Master Plan provides the basis for this.

In a number of towns that historically were developed as residential/resort and where there is now a large portion of the waterfront in private hands, there is no specific zoning for waterfront/water-dependent uses.

The Final Report

Download a PDF version of the Sea Grant Final Report

Geographic Scope of Study

Click on a municipality listed below to download a PDF version of the report for that comunity.

Raritan Bay (Middlesex County)

Raritan Bay (Monmouth County)

Atlantic Coast and Shrewsbury and Navesink Rivers (Monmouth County)

Click on the name of a municipality to visit thier official website;
Aberdeen, Atlantic Highlands, Carteret, Fair Haven, Hazlet, Highlands, Keansburg, Keyport, Little Silver, Long Branch, Middletown, Old Bridge, Perth Amboy, Red Bank, Rumson, Sayreville, Sea Bright, Union Beach

Co-Principal Investigators:

  • Bonnie J. McCay
  • Department of Human Ecology
  • Cook College, Rutgers the State University New Brunswick, New Jersey
  • Debbie Mans and Andrew Willner NYINJ Baykeeper
  • Keyport, New Jersey

Research Associates:

  • Barbara Jones, Ph.D, Brookdale Community College, Lincroft
  • Johnelle Lamarque, Department of Human Ecology, Rutgers the State University.
  • Sheri Seminski, Department of Human Ecology, Rutgers the State University, New Brunswick
  • Satsuki Takahashi, Department of Human Ecology, Rutgers the State University, New BrunswickWeb-master:


Dennis Reynolds
NY/NJ Baykeeper
Keyport, New Jersey

Based upon project “Identifying and Claiming the Coastal Commons in Industrialized and Gentrified Places,” supported by the New Jersey Sea Grant College Program, New Jersey Marine Sciences Consortium.

I Bonnie J. McCay, Debbie Mans, Satsuki Takahashi, and Sheri Seminski. 2005. “Public Access and Waterfront Development in New Jersey: From the Arthur Kill to the Shrewsbury River.” Keyport, New Jersey: NY NJ Baykeeper.
2 New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, Office of Coastal Planning. Section 309 Assessment, July 2001. Trenton, NJ. Available on-line at: