WAYNE PARRY / AP / WASHINGTON POST – New Jersey lawmakers are reaching back to the Roman empire in their latest effort to guarantee public access to the shoreline and end some shore towns’ long history of trying to keep outsiders off their beaches.
State lawmakers have introduced a new beach access bill that writes the Public Trust Doctrine into law and directs the state Department of Environmental Protection to apply it to coastal land use and funding decisions.
The doctrine is a legal concept dating to the time of the Emperor Justinian stating that oceans, bays and rivers are held in a trust for the public, which has the right to swim in them, or sit or walk along their shores.
Though it has been cited in several groundbreaking court cases involving beach access over the decades, the doctrine has been open to differing interpretations. The current bill actually incorporates the doctrine into state law, something environmentalists have wanted for years …