The New Jersey coast is one of the United States’ most iconic places, full of natural beauty and human-made attractions that draw millions of visitors every year. But New Jersey’s beaches are not only the site of relaxation, but also the site of struggle: The struggle for beach access. Access to New Jersey's beaches is protected by the Public Trust Doctrine, which states that “the sea, and consequently the shores of the sea” are common, and that “no one, therefore, is forbidden to approach the seashore.” However, despite the Public Trust Doctrine and the courts’ unambiguous rulings affirming it, on a day-to-day level, “unimpeded beach access” remains something of a phantom. Towns refrain from building paths, parking lots, and bathrooms, adopt restrictive parking regulations and residential parking permit programs, and only reluctantly penalize private interests from encroaching on the beach. Homeowners, for their part, post phony “private beach” signs, bark at people to get off “their” property, and even disguise access points as front yards. And the different beach badges that all but a handful of New Jersey towns require fragment the beach, and undermine one’s ability to walk up and down it.
In our project we will both highlight some of the weapons that have been deployed in the battle for beach access, and present several site-specific radical proposed interventions to increase the public’s access to the beach.
The installation will have three key features: (1) a cylindrical light table that includes an illustrative map of the Jersey shore along with photos of the site and diagrams of the proposed interventions (2) a linear representation of the entire eastern coast of the United States at the same scale as the illustrative map and is affixed to the exhibition floor (this would be adhered to or painted directly on the floor so that other exhibition elements could sit atop it and exhibition visitors could walk on it), and (3) large-format printed photos of the sites by the artist Tim Davis.