Public vs. Private Beaches

Private Beaches and Property Rights

Today I was at the beach having a pleasant time. There was some commotion and the eventual result was a scene that looked something like this...


That's right, my friends, other beach-goers and I were enjoying the beautiful day when we were all asked to clear the beach. A man called the police to assert his property rights. Apparently this man owned a small parcel of land, with no house on it, sandwiched between two public beaches. Effectively he ordered us off of his land which he himself was not using and prevented people from moving freely about the beach.

So as a result I decided to open up a discussion about property rights and beach etiquette. 

Know the Rules: I think that this is probably the most crucial part of the beach access debate. In some areas, by law, beaches cannot be private at all, while in others, private beaches are the norm. Before arguing over whether or a rule is fair, one must understand the rule. 

By the way, the beach that I was in is in Rhode Island and the state specifically recognizes the right of passage by the public across private beaches via the high tide line. A simple application of this rule may have resolved the tensions that built today. 

Become an Informed Consumer: If you are the type of person who wants privacy at the beach and does not want to be bothered with others, it may be best to buy land that is far away from public beaches, not in between them. If you own the only parcel of land that separates two public areas, you are bound to run into easement issues whether or not this property happens to be along the water. 

Be Respectful: This one goes both ways. I would say that if a property owner wishes people to leave his or her property, it makes sense that the public should comply. However, it also makes sense that a landowner should not call the police to remove people from land that he is not using as was the case today. 

Overall I think that it is unfortunate that people cannot just learn to share space appropriately. In general, people always have enough room on the beach to have enough fun without imposing rules on others.