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Raleigh Avenue Beach Ass'n v. Atlantis Beach Club

New Jersey Supreme Court
879 A.2d 112 (N.J. 2005)


Atlantis Beach Club (defendant) owned beach property. Before 1996, the public could use the beach free of charge. Starting in 1996, it operated a private club on the land, commanding high admission costs and providing comforts to its beachgoers. Just to the north of the Atlantis property was another beach area which was open to the public and was authorized by the state to charge nominal fees for admission. After a local resident was ticketed and charged with trespassing for walking through Atlantis’s beach property in order to get home, the Raleigh Avenue Beach Association (plaintiff) (the Association) sued Atlantis alleging that the public trust doctrine required that Atlantis permit the public free access to the beach through its property, and to permit the public access to a sufficient portion of the dry sand area as needed to enjoy the water. The trial court held that the public was entitled to a limited set of horizontal and vertical access paths through its property, for purposes of getting to the water and for exiting the beach. The trial court also held that, to the extent that Atlantis provided equipment, lifeguards, and other facilities, it would, upon application to the appropriate state authorities, be permitted to charge a reasonable fee for those services. The Appellate Division upheld the trial court’s determination that Atlantis may not limit the horizontal and vertical access to the water, and that Atlantis may charge a reasonable fee to persons spending extended amounts of time on its land, provided Atlantis was providing a service in exchange, such as picking up garbage and providing showering facilities. Atlantis appealed.

Rule of Law


Holding and Reasoning (Poritz, C.J.)

Dissent (Wallace, J.)

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