By Dave Rauschkolb
Those power brokers intent on denying the public’s right to use and enjoy our beach as we have since time immemorial are determined to paint this as a private property rights issue. Customary Use is not an attack against private property rights, it is an affirmation that regardless of ownership of the sand we all have a right to access, use and enjoy our shared coastal American border.
“No entity, regardless of ownership, may deny or exclude Americans or international visitors from freely and lawfully accessing and using our American beaches from the dune line to the mean high tide waterline.” These words should be all that is needed in a federal or state law.
Private property in the conventional sense—beyond our coastal borders—is not in dispute. Reams of legal and laymen’s arguments have been and are being written to paint non-beachfront owners’ use of our beaches as an attack on private property. It is not because our beaches are very different from conventional private property.
We all own private property, and the law is clear on Americans’ right to preserve and protect their private property. That is rarely if ever in dispute. The reason this issue is in dispute is because we have truly shared our beaches for centuries. The claim of exclusion on beaches, couched in private property rights arguments, is a fairly recent development in American history.
We have a shared coastal heritage on our beaches. Clearly our coasts have value, as the closer one purchases to a beach the values are highest. The value and strength of coastal economies depend on the use of our beaches for all. For a finite group of citizens to claim exclusion of our beaches to the rest of all Americans is an affront to all non-beachfront owning Americans.
Those powerful and well-funded people wanting to change a balance that has existed a very, very long time bitterly claim their private property is being taken away. No. They purchased the convenience of being steps from the beach and the view. They can’t build on the sand and there are no tax assessments directly attached to that sand. It is not private property in the conventional sense as it applies to all other land that is private property.
No, this is not about private property. It is about excluding all of us from enjoying and using our most treasured and beloved beaches. Our beaches, the shifting sands of our common Coastal American heritage. Perhaps, besides it not being buildable or taxable, it could be argued that the sandy areas of our beaches may never be called “private” because the land they purchased is constantly on the move by tidal action, wind and storms.
How can they claim ownership and exclusion on shifting sands they can’t contain?