Beach access advocates walked through a gate in Long Branch that had a sign saying "private access, residents only," making a point Wednesday about the public's difficulty in reaching the beach in parts of New Jersey.

Officials say the site is privately owned, but note that fishermen routinely use it.

The sign on the gate threatens that violators will be prosecuted.

New Jersey environmental officials held two public hearings Wednesday on changes to the state's beach access rules. The changes give local towns more power over where the public can access the beach.

Officials in many shore towns like the changes. But beach access advocates say the new rules give power to the very towns that make beach access a problem.

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