Matthews v. Bay Head Improvement Association by aiowmnyv




Matthews v. Bay Head Improvement Association, Supreme Court of NJ, 1984 Whether the public had a right to gain access through and to use the dry sand area not owned by a municipality but by a quasi-public body. Issue
Whether the dry sand area that the association owns or leases should be open to the public

The seashore is not private property.

Land covered by tidal waters belonged to the sovereign, but for the common use of all the people. All navigable rivers in which the tide ebbs and flows and the coasts of the sea, including the water and land under the water, are common to all the citizens. The public has a right to use the land below the mean average high water mark where the tide ebbs and flows. These uses include: navigation, fishing, recreational uses, including bathing, swimming and other shore activities. In order to exercise the rights of bathing, swimming, and other shore activities guaranteed by the public trust doctrine, the public must have access to municipallyowned dry sand areas as well as the foreshore. The enjoyment of rights in the foreshore is inseparable from use of dry sand beaches. The public does not have unrestricted right to cross at will over any and all property bordering on the common property. o The public interest is satisfied so long as there is reasonable access to the sea Reasonable enjoyment of the foreshore and the sea cannot be realized unless some enjoyment of the dry sand area is also allowed. Private land owners may not in all instances prevent the public from exercising its rights under the public trust doctrine. o The public must be afforded reasonable access to the foreshore as well as a suitable area for recreation on the dry sand

The Association had title to 6 parcels on the Atlantic ocean (all other 70 were privately owned) The association is a quasi public entity. Except for fishermen, only the membership may use the beach between 10:00AM and 5:30 PM. The public is permitted to use association’s beach from 5:30 p.m. to 10 A.M.

Without some means of access the public right to use this foreshore would be meaningless

No need to apply notions of prescription although ∆ was a private association, because it was a nonprofit corporation and its activities paralleled those of a municipality, the court was able to interfere with its internal affairs and compel it to open membership to the public at large. Can’t say that all private beachfront property should be open to the public – after consider the necessity and taken a case-by-case basis.

Held Procedure P argues D argues


Summary judgment in favor of defendant
All privately owned beachfront property likewise must be open to the public

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