Violating Public Trust

Jan 30, 2019

To the Editor:

In the summer of 2010, Long Beach Township illegally and erroneously attempted to turn a protected waterfront space (Bayview Park) into a dog park. This was not only a short-sighted attempt by the town’s leadership, it also posed a health risk to the bay and surrounding marsh areas.

The township is seeking to pursue this again in 2019, with a proposal to destroy natural marsh wetland and create a 30-slot parking lot with an adjacent dog beach. The township again posted a legal notice regarding the plans in the middle of winter, when many homeowners and residents are not regularly on the Island.

The area in question is one of the few natural area of wetlands remaining on LBI. It is a habitat frequented by ducks, birds, turtles (nesting) and horseshoe crabs, egrets, and even the occasional winter seal. Dog owners who used the “temporary” dog park in 2010 did not take responsibility to pick up dog waste and the town did not enforce the rules for the use of the dog park. The result was dog waste and urine in the sand, bay water and/or near the vegetation. Dogs, off-leash, also chased birds, disturbed horseshoe crabs and damaged brightly colored watersports equipment. The dog waste and excrement posed health risks to the animals and children/adults who wanted to use the bay beach, which is shallow and especially good for small children.

Furthermore, a dog park already exists on the opposite side of the road next to the Long Beach Township municipal building. Local and regional individuals and businesses opposed this first dog park, and Long Beach Township wisely decided that this was not the right move, only after it had bulldozed the beach and destroyed half an acre of natural, protected vegetation. We must remind them again. (Note: I have nothing against dogs or other animals. However, the people and children that use the bay and bay beaches take significant priority in preservation of natural resources.)

There is no public open space or resource as large and varied as the state’s tidal waterfronts and waters. The rights of the public here are unique and dominant. Despite this, there are well-recognized policy and legal reasons to strengthen available tools on protected bay beaches and marshlands, and public access and protecting the public trust doctrine.

Quality public access is proving to be a keystone element of effective redevelopment and revitalization. There continue to be conflicts like this one with municipalities that are self-serving developers, who sacrifice resources, sometimes illegally, and violate the public trust that belongs to all New Jerseyans and our visitors.

Stephen Acundo Jr.

Barnegat Light



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