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Proposed Beach Access Changes Along Jersey Shore Drawing Mixed Reaction

BAY HEAD, N.Y. (CBS 2) -- To some New Jersey beachgoers, it's like getting sand kicked in their face.

A new proposal may allow individual shore towns to determine rules for beach access, and that means shore-lovers could get shut out of their favorite beaches, reports CBS 2's Christine Sloan.

While people will have no problem lying out on the beach for this Memorial Day Weekend, environmentalists said that by the end of the summer, they may have a tougher time getting on the more exclusive beaches in New Jersey.

The state's Department of Environmental Protection wants to relax rules, allowing shore towns to create their own beach access plans.

"The rule proposal gives more power to the towns, and we think it's a mistake because historically, some towns – only a handful – have restricted beach access," John Weber said.

Weber, who works with an organization called Surfrider that's fighting the proposal, pointed to exclusive towns like Bay Head and Mantoloking. He said they've made it difficult to use their beaches by providing little parking, no bathrooms and excessive rules.

If the proposal goes through, Weber said, they could have more power to limit access.

Tourist Emily Wilson said she sees nothing wrong with that.

"It's nice to have a sense of community, where you go on the beach and know it's only your neighbors or people renting your neighbor's house," she said. "It keeps it nice and private."

Others, though, say everyone should have access to any beach they want, and there should be uniform rules – including providing public bathrooms – like Bradley Beach does.

"This is the Jersey Shore," Neptune resident Karen Cowart said. "It's for everybody to enjoy it, it shouldn't be for those who live here, or like a monopoly or something."

The DEP has held several public meetings on the beach access issue, with the last meeting scheduled for next week. The agency told CBS 2 that it will review testimony to see if the proposal needs to be tweaked, and that a decision will be made in the next few months.

The DEP said it will work with communities to craft access plans that make local sense, while protecting the rights and needs of residents and businesses.

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