Opinion: Are beaches public? No, they are not!

POSTED: 02/23/15 1:14 AM

Are beaches public? No, they are not! According to the Civil Code beaches are presumed to be the property of government. In other words the presumption that beaches are public would have to be set aside if evidence to the contrary is presented.

But, if a beach is public what does this really mean?

Some argue that it means that beaches are owned by no one. They are public domain just as the fish in the sea, the birds in the air and the air itself. Some argue that it means that beaches are owned by government and that government as owner can decide whatever it wants to do with the beaches. Well, if that is the case then beaches are not public, but owned by the government. As owner it means that government can close off the beach and charge fees to use the beach the same way as government charges for the use of the parking lot in front of the government building in Philipsburg. Some would argue that government can not do that as far as beaches are concerned. Beaches, they say, should be available to be used by everyone without having to pay for the use of the beach. Well, is it not a fact that government granted licenses to businesses to rent out chairs, umbrellas and tables on the beach and by so doing deprive the right of the public from using the spaces where these chairs, tables and umbrellas are located? Those spaces now are no longer available to the public, but available to the businesses.

Beach is defined as the area between high water mark and the water’s edge, or from the water’s edge to where vegetation starts.

Some would like to define “beach” as the area starting at the water’s edge and continuing for 50 meters in land. The problem with this suggestion is that it runs squarely into private property rights of private owners.

Some beaches may be public beaches, however access to these public beaches is a problem. Access to public beaches from the sea poses no problem whatsoever. Access to the beaches over privately owned property is another matter altogether. It requires the consent of the private owner.

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