Coast Guard Says Fishermen Will Permanently Have Access to Sandy Hook Beach Area
Long Branch, NJ --- At a meeting in Long Branch organized today by U.S. Rep. Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ) and U.S. Sens. Jon S. Corzine (D-NJ) and Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ), the U.S. Coast Guard told officials from area fishing groups that fishermen, surfers, runners and others will permanently have access to an area at Sandy Hook near the Coast Guard station that was closed off to them last month when the Coast Guard erected a fence at the site.
The Coast Guard said it's now in final negotiations with the National Park Service to turn over jurisdiction of this portion of Sandy Hook to the Park Service. Coast Guard officials also said the agency would not construct another fence because the dune line parallel to the shore will serve as a natural barrier between the area visited by the fishermen and the Coast Guard station. Fishing groups were also pleased by the Coast Guard's announcement that there will no longer be any closures of the beach area when the Coast Guard's firing range is being used.
During today's meeting in Long Branch, Coast Guard officials confirmed that fishermen and others will have access to the same areas along the shoreline they did before the fence was constructed---an area that extends from fisherman's beach to the Rip, 300 yards to the edge of the bug light. While fishing groups appreciated the Coast Guard's decision, they requested that the Coast Guard allow access past the bug light all the way up to the sand bar that would open access to approximately 150 to 300 more yards of beach. Coast Guard officials told the fishermen they would study the proposal to see if it's acceptable and get back to them at the beginning of next week.
"Today's meeting was extremely productive in that both the Coast Guard and the fishermen expressed a sincere willingness to work together," said Pallone, who conducted the meeting in his Long Branch office. "I'm extremely happy with the Coast Guard's decision to permanently allow access to fishermen, surfers and others who want to recreate on this popular beach."
Senator Corzine said, "I was pleased to help arrange this meeting between the anglers and the Coast Guard. I think great progress was made and this was a great outcome. The Sandy Hook Rip has long been a terrific spot for surf anglers and will now remain a terrific spot to fish.
"As a fisherman myself, I am extremely pleased that the community will continue to have access to this beach for fishing, surfing, and other recreational use," said Senator Lautenberg. "Sandy Hook has always been a popular spot for families to enjoy and now with the cooperation with the Coast Guard, this enjoyment will continue."
Last month, the Coast Guard constructed a chain-link fence at the edge of its property line that ran across the Sandy Hook beach and into the Raritan Bay. Shortly thereafter, the New Jersey lawmakers received several calls from constituents who were upset that the fence was cutting off access to nearly a mile of beach west of the fence. In response, the three lawmakers sent a letter to the Coast Guard requesting today's meeting to address both the Coast Guard's safety concerns, but also the access concerns of the fishermen. Despite the fact the Coast Guard removed the fence earlier this month, Pallone, Corzine and Lautenberg wanted to continue to hold the meeting so the issue could be resolved.