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Beach Access

Help Fight for Beach Access

 

Public beach access is a universal right...

Beach access is the ability to reach the sand and surf.  It is the means of entry to our oceans, waves and beaches.

Surfrider Foundation promotes the right of low-impact, free and open access to the world's waves and beaches for all people. Beaches are one of the most popular public resources. Because individuals need access to beaches in order to enjoy them, Surfrider Foundation acts to protect the right of access.

In nearly every state, some portion of the beach is public land, which means that all members of the public have the right to use that portion of the beach. Surfrider Foundation recognizes that the public’s right of access to waterways is often based on the Public Trust Doctrine, and is further reflected in international, regional, and state laws and Constitutions.  

The right of beach access is constantly being challenged by private property owners, developers and even sea level rise.  Of course, some wealthy landowners would like to lock up slices of the coast for themselves alone.  Surfrider Foundation is actively fighting for beach access in places where private property owners have cut off long-standing publicly used coastal access.

Surfrider Foundation has developed a Policy on Beach Access, which addresses our stance on the many aspects of the issue of beach access.

2014 Top Campaigns:

Open Martin's Beach in San Mateo County - Martin's beach is a beautiful crescent shaped beach, surrounded by cliffs on either side, in Half Moon Bay, California, that was recently cut off to public access in 2010 when owner and billionaire ventura capitalist, Vinod Khosla, locked the gate to the beach road, erected signage and hired security guards to exclude the public from the only access road.  In 2012, Surfrider Foundation helped to successfully defend the Martin’s 5 who were ticketed for trespassing when they went to surf.  In 2013, Surfrider Foundation sued the property owner for this violation of the California Coastal Act.  And in 2014, we received a favorable ruling in that case.  Surfrider Foundation refuses to back down from this fight until the community beach is open again to the public.

Maine Beach Access Litigation - Beach access legal battles in the state of Maine continue to persist due to conflicting case law in the previous decades.  The Maine Chapter is committed to opening the public's right to use and recreate in the nearshore waters of Maine's coastal areas. The Chapter is currently litigating to establish a strong definition of the Public Trust Doctrine and ensure the coastal resources protected for the public and future generations.

Texas Open Beaches - Surfrider Foundation Texas Chapters have been committed to upholding the intent and rights established by the 1959 Texas Open Beaches Act that proclaimed free and unrestricted public access to state owned beaches bordering the Gulf of Mexico.  The Chapter is a current litigant on the side of the state in the Brannan v. State of Texas case and is also creating public outreach and awareness events to educate all Texans about their rights to enjoy the coast.

Chicago Surf Access - Surfrider Foundation Chicago Chapter has been committed to opening up opportunities to surf in Lake Michigan.  Despite past arrests of surfers, Surfrider and City representatives are working together to find more surf spots and permissible opportunities off the coast of the Windy City, while at the same time educating the public about beach access and water safety.

Strandsgate – Fighting the unpermitted gates on the central accessway through the Headlands Development at Strands Beach in Dana Point has been a major battle for the organization since 2010.  Surfrider Foundation won a major court victory in June 2011 when the San Diego Superior Court ruled the City of Dana Point acted “arbitrarily and capriciously” when passing the urgency nuisance ordinance to close the gates.  This case is currently in appeal and Surfrider Foundation continues to avidly litigate it to protect the public’s beach access rights alongside the California Coastal Commission.

Past Victories:

Eastport, Maine - Beach Access (2011) Surfrider Foundation won an important beach access case in the highest court in the state, when the Maine Supreme Judicial Court unanimously ruled in McGarvey v. Whittredge that private ownership rights in the intertidal lands do not allow oceanfront property owners to exclude the public from crossing the wet sand to reach the ocean in order to scuba dive or run a scuba diving business.

Ponte Vedra, Floria -  Beach Access (2006) The Surfrider Foundation won a lawsuit regarding blocked beach access points in Ponte Vedra, Florida.  In this case, the number of perpendicular beach access sites was adequate, but the ability to use the sites was severely limited by a lack of nearby parking spots.

Rockaway Beach, New York - Surfing Ban (2005) The Surfrider Foundation's New York City Chapter was successful in overturning a long standing surfing ban at New York's famed Rockaway Beach.

Asbury Park, New Jersey - Surfing Ban (2003) The Surfrider Foundation local officials to repeal a ban on surfing at New Jersey's legendary Asbury Park Beach.

Deal, New Jersey - Beach Access (1994) In the case, Surfrider Foundation v. Borough of Deal, the New Jersey Chapters were able to fight to ensure beach access for surfers in the state of New Jersey.

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Policy on Beach Access

Beachapedia: Beach Access

Beachapedia: Public Trust

Surfrider Foundation Legal Handbook, Chapter 4: Beach Access

California Coast Scores During Legislative Season

October 03 2014

California Coast Scores During Legislative Season

Beach Access Coastal Preservation Know Your H20 Ocean Friendly Gardens Water Quality

Last year’s legislative season in California was a bust for the coast and ocean. In 2013, Surfrider worked on ten coastal and ocean protection bills, and only two bills were signed into law. Surprisingly, this year’s season was the opposite and very successful. Surfrider actively worked on more than a dozen bills and the Governor recently signed nine of those bills into law. Talk about a game-changer for the coast.

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Court Rules in Favor of Access to Martin’s Beach!

September 24 2014

Court Rules in Favor of Access to Martin’s Beach!

Beach Access Legal

Surfrider Foundation was triumphant in a very important legal battle today with the ruling of San Mateo Superior Court Judge Barbara J. Mallach in favor of Surfrider Foundation’s arguments to restore beach access at Martin’s Beach. Specifically, Surfrider Foundation filed this case on March 12, 2013 in order to enforce the beach access protections of the California Coastal Act. Our complaint alleged that the property owner, multi-billionaire venture capitalist Vinod Khosla, cannot add new development or change the intensity of use of the beach in question without first obtaining a Coastal Development Permit.

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California Legislature Supports Public Access at Martin’s Beach

August 22 2014

California Legislature Supports Public Access at Martin’s Beach

Beach Access Legal

The state bill to open Martin's Beach SB 968 (Hill) passed out of the legislature yesterday. The bill is key symbolic action by our state legislature to direct the State Lands Commission to address an issue that has now risen to a level of statewide importance.

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Ditch Plains, NY and the Fate of the East Deck Motel

August 22 2014

Ditch Plains, NY and the Fate of the East Deck Motel

Beach Access Blue Water Task Force Coastal Preservation Shoreline Armoring Surf Protection Water Quality

The very modest 28-room East Deck Motel sits right next to Ditch Plains, a premier surf spot in Long Island. It has been sold and the new owners plan a huge members-only resort and entertainment complex, 2 stories, over 30,000 square feet including deck and pool with 100 parking spaces, many underground. The LLC formed with some secret silent partners goes by the name of ED40 and so does the proposal that would forever change the nature of this place.

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Surfrider ‘Finishes Strong’ in Martin’s Beach Access Case

July 16 2014

Surfrider ‘Finishes Strong’ in Martin’s Beach Access Case

Beach Access Legal

urfrider Foundation delivered powerful closing remarks in the Surfrider Foundation v. Martins Beach I and II LLC case in San Mateo Superior Court today. The crux of the case is to require the property owner, billionaire venture capitalist Vinod Khosla, to obtain a Coastal Development permit under the Coastal Act, just as any other coastal business or property owner has to do if there are changes to their property. This final stage of litigation follows six days of trial in May, including testimony from 18 witnesses.

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Coastal Commission Now Enabled to Fine Coastal Landowners

July 01 2014

Coastal Commission Now Enabled to Fine Coastal Landowners

Beach Access Legal

The ocean victories of June, World Oceans Month, are pushing into July. A law goes into effect today and enables the California Coastal Commission to assess fines against landowners wrongfully blocking public beach access. California Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins successfully pushed this legislation through as part of the state budget after a long fight with powerful opponents. This law is a victory for every citizen of California as it enforces the constitutional right to unfettered beach access.

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Lawsuit to Open Martin’s Beach Goes to Trial

April 30 2014

Lawsuit to Open Martin’s Beach Goes to Trial

Beach Access Legal

One year after filing suit to open access to Martin’s Beach, a well-loved beach and surf spot south of Half Moon Bay, California, the Surfrider Foundation’s lawsuit is set for trial on Monday, May 5 at 9 a.m. PDT.

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This Land is Our Land: California State Legislature proposes Bill to Open Martin’s Beach

February 08 2014

This Land is Our Land: California State Legislature proposes Bill to Open Martin’s Beach

Beach Access Legal

California Senator Jerry Hill has authored legislation to allow public access to Martin's Beach in Half Moon Bay. The bill will be introduced on February 10, 2014 in the California State Legislature. The bill will require the State Lands Commission to consult and negotiate with property owner Vinod Khosla about acquiring a portion of Kholsa’s property for public access to Martin’s Beach. If the Commission and Khosla fail to reach an agreement by January 1, 2016, the bill requires the Commission to attain Khosla’s property by eminent domain.

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2013 Victories Recap

November 26 2013

2013 Victories Recap

Beach Access Coastal Preservation Ocean Ecosystems Rise Above Plastics Surf Protection Water Quality

As we close in on the end of another great year of coastal protection it seems appropriate to look back at the hard work that’s been done by Surfrider Foundation volunteers and staff. Our activists have been busy this year, racking up 33 campaign victories so far

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Surfrider Foundation Legal Department Highlights for 2013

November 25 2013

Surfrider Foundation Legal Department Highlights for 2013

Beach Access Legal Rise Above Plastics Water Quality

The legal work at Surfrider Foundation moves at a fast pace; however, we took a few minutes to look back on the year 2013 and acknowledge some of Surfrider Foundation’s accomplishments and strategic movement in legal campaigns. Since the organization-wide programmatic priorities for the past year were (1) Rise Above Plastics, (2) Water Quality, and (3) Beach Access, the following is a breakdown of top achievements in those areas.

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Launch of ActCoastal—the California Coast Accountability Project

November 21 2013

Launch of ActCoastal—the California Coast Accountability Project

Beach Access Coastal Preservation Ocean Ecosystems Surf Protection Water Quality

Surfrider members are “ocean users” through and through. It’s amazing to think that as I write this blog, there are Surfrider supporters around the world surfing, diving, fishing, SUPing, swimming, sunbathing, wildlife watching AND fighting to protect our coast. In California, Surfrider is upping our ante to preserve our coast and engage more Californians to participate in coastal issues. We recently joined forces with other organizations to launch ActCoastal—the California Coast Accountability Project. The premise of ActCoastal originates from the California Coastahttp://www.surfrider.org/images/uploads/blog/Hispanic_boy_on_beach.pngl Commission (CCC) vote chart Surfrider and colleagues have produced for over 20 years, where we monitor big items before the CCC and score their voting record. While the vote chart is useful, we wanted to make the concept more contemporary and exist in ‘real time’. To do that, we decided to launch a monthly score card and develop a website that functions as a clearinghouse for coastal advocates.

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Martin’s Beach Litigation Update

November 11 2013

Martin’s Beach Litigation Update

Beach Access Legal

The beautiful crescent-shaped stretch of beach in Half Moon Bay is the site of Surfrider Foundation's featured beach access campaign since owner, Vinod Khosla, has gated the only road leading down to the beach. While Surfrider Foundation helped to successfully defend the Martin's 5 from trespass claims last year, there is still ongoing litigation to establish access rights to the beach.

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Los Angeles is the epicenter of Coastal Act abuse

August 26 2013

Los Angeles is the epicenter of Coastal Act abuse

Beach Access

Los Angeles County is the epicenter for this growing epidemic of coastal abuse, especially Malibu. With your help we can change this and support Coastal Act enforcement to keep beach access open for all.

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New Texas Open Beaches Act Amendment Explained

July 25 2013

New Texas Open Beaches Act Amendment Explained

Beach Access Legal

The Texas Legislature recently passed H.B. 3459, which the governor signed into law June 14, 2013. The new law amends the Texas Open Beaches Act, which means it will have an effect on public beach access. However, because the law grants a significant amount of decision-making authority to the General Land Office, the nature and degree of its impact remains uncertain.

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Long Fought Beach Access Battle at Strands Advances with Appellate Court Ruling

June 20 2013

Long Fought Beach Access Battle at Strands Advances with Appellate Court Ruling

Beach Access Legal

Surfrider Foundation received a positive ruling from the California Appellate Court this week when it ruled in favor of California Coastal Commission control over beach access right at Strands Beach in Dana Point. Surfrider won our case against the City of Dana Point in 2011 at the trial court when we challenged the City's bogus nuisance ordinance. This appellate opinion of that consolidated case reaffirms the Constitutionally-protected beach access rights, this time through strengthening the Coastal Commission's jurisdiction.

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California’s Landmark Law Under Attack

April 08 2013

California’s Landmark Law Under Attack

Beach Access Blue Water Task Force Coastal Preservation Know Your H20 Ocean Ecosystems Water Quality

The California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) is one of California’s most important laws—not only because it helps protect our environment and “quality of life”, but CEQA also promotes democratic participation in the decision-making process—giving citizens a say in what happens in their local communities. Unfortunately over the past few years, developers and polluting industries have been attempting to weaken CEQA through legislation. If special interests succeed in weakening CEQA, California’s natural resources could suffer from unchecked development, and the public will lose its ability to require developers to address environmental impacts.

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Surfrider Foundation Sues to Open Martin’s Beach to the Public

March 13 2013

Surfrider Foundation Sues to Open Martin’s Beach to the Public

Beach Access Legal

Martin's Beach in Half Moon Bay, California, is a beautiful stretch of sandy beach that has been enjoyed by locals and visitors for generations. However, locked gates and signs were erected at the entrance to the beach road several years ago. After over two years of outreach and advocacy, the closure of the road remains; this is why Surfrider Foundation started the Open Martin's Beach campaign and why we filed suit on March 12th, 2013.

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Surfrider Overcomes Big Challenge to Access on the Big Island!

January 22 2013

Surfrider Overcomes Big Challenge to Access on the Big Island!

Beach Access Legal

In Hawaii, Surfrider Foundation’s Hilo Chapter has fought for over the past two years to open up trail access to Papaikou Mill Beach, one of the few sandy beaches on the East side of the Big Island. Known as a popular surfing, fishing and recreational spot, the beach is also used by students at the University of Hawaii (UH) at Hilo for educational purposes in observing the endangered monk seal and other ecological resources. Neighbors and beach goers also clean the trail and beach when it is open.

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Flyspecking Preservation Efforts: a case on off-road recreational access v. preservation

November 07 2012

Flyspecking Preservation Efforts: a case on off-road recreational access v. preservation

Beach Access Legal

Surfrider Foundation has long worked to secure low-impact beach access for all people. Our work in realizing this goal has not gone without recognizing the omnipresent balance between beach access and the ecological integrity of our beaches. This balance is often implicated in beach driving. The Southern Four Wheel Drive Ass'n v. U.S. Forest Service case involves the restriction of heavy recreational use in order to preserve a protected species.

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Another Victory for Beach Access in Maine!

October 21 2012

Another Victory for Beach Access in Maine!

Beach Access Legal

Goose Rocks Beach in Kennebunkport, Maine will be kept open to the public per a ruling by the State of Maine Superior Court on October 16, 2012.

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Angela Howe, Legal Director, ahowe@surfrider.org