sb-beach-club-071110The club was the last holdout defendant in a lawsuit dating back four years, and lost. (Click to enlarge)

A state Superior Court in Freehold has ordered the oceanfront Seabright Beach Club to give nonmembers access to more than 15 feet of beach above the tide line.

The state Department of Environmental Protection, which filed suit against the club, the borough and eight other private clubs in 2006, announced the ruling on Friday.

The club was the final remaining defendant in the suit, which challenged a 1993 agreement restricting public access to 15 feet of sand at the water’s edge, and only allowed users to walk by, not set down chairs or towels.

The suit was filed after millions of dollars in taxpayer dollars were used to replenish and expand eroded beaches.

Six clubs, along with the borough, settled with the state in January; two others had previously settled.

In his ruling, Judge Thomas W. Cavanagh last week ruled that the public owns all the tidelands in front of the Seabright Beach Club, and ordered the club to work with the DEP on developing a plan to accommodate public access, including plans for maintenance, lifeguard protection and signage, the DEP announced.

Cavanaugh called for “a significant amount of the beach” between Seabright’s clubhouse and the ocean to be made available to the public, according to the DEP.