Public boat access to NJ-owned lakes is goal of new proposed bill
Boating is generally considered open to the public on state-owned lakes in New Jersey, but boaters might have a hard time realizing that these days if they don't have a connection with a private dock.
It used to be that anyone wanting to get out on the water, especially for fishing but ostensibly for any purpose, would be able to do so through the good graces of local marinas, according to state Sen. Joseph Pennacchio.
But Pennacchio said that's not so much the case anymore.
"The areas have gotten so busy that the marinas just can't handle any additional customers outside of the ones that they have," he said.
Pennacchio and 26th District colleague Assemblyman Jay Webber are introducing legislation that would task the state Department of Environmental Protection with ensuring access to any state-owned lake where boats are allowed.
The measure stems from the lawmakers discovering that Greenwood Lake, which straddles the state line with New York and is the Garden State's second-largest lake, currently has no public access.
Lake Hopatcong, the largest freshwater lake in New Jersey, is also in Pennacchio and Webber's district.
"Make no mistake about it: Lakes in New Jersey, they are public because they are owned by the state of New Jersey," Pennacchio said, adding, "It's a large enough state that I'm sure that this issue exists with many other lakes as well."
One of the ways the measure suggests the DEP boost access is to negotiate long-term contracts with marinas and other sites for public launches.
Pennacchio said it might not have to get as involved as that, though.
"The process, in my view, would be simple enough just to create an area that the state owns where they can create a slip where boats can be set off," he said.
According to a release from Pennacchio's office, 1.2 million anglers make use of New Jersey lakes annually. Their licensing fees are used, in part, to stock public lakes with game fish.