New Jersey Supreme Court considers “the right to sunbathe and generally enjoy recreational activities” on the Jersey Shore

September 22nd, 2012

My most sincere thanks to the editors of the Dukeminier & Krier text for using a case from the New Jersey Supreme Court to illustrate the public trust doctrine with respect to whether land along the beach (in this case the Jeresey Shore) can be privately owned. See Matthews v. Bay Head Improvement Association (the source of the above quotation).

And from Raleigh Ave. Beach Association v. Atlantic Beach Club (in Cape May, NJ):

Because the activity of swimming “must be accompanied by intermittent periods of rest and relaxation beyond the water’s edge,” the lack of an area available to the public for that pur- pose “would seriously curtail and in many situations eliminate the right to the rec- reational use of the ocean.”

I think this video sums up the doctrine nicely.

Without access to the sand ancillary to the beach, how else would Snooki find the beach? It can’t just be a simple three-foot strip (as the owner of the private club sought). No, it must be the wide expanses of the sand, held in the public trust, so the patrons of the Jersey Shore can wander and meander about, much like the free water, to find the shore. The common law prevails again. How would this case have turned out if the beach was privately owned? Well, Snooki still would’ve gotten arrested, but for different reasons!