Question: I am a South Beach waterfront property owner with a question that I need some help in clarifying. The issue is natural shoreline access.
I have lived and walked along the South Beach shoreline from Country Club to the fish farm for some 11 years. Recently one of the newly moved in neighbors informed us that we could no longer walk across “their beach property” as it was private and was a bird santuary.
I am of the understanding that if I make entry to the beach area from a public access or from our own property … not that of the specific property owner, that transit across their shoreline was permissible. I seem to recall something about the Public Trust Doctrine that I read in the BI Review some time ago.
I was hoping that you might help me clarify if my walking over the privately owned land (shoreline) violates anyones rights. Seems a shame that one owner could cut off our opportunity to enjoy our South Beach natural shoreline.
Answer: In Washington State public beaches are public — and private beaches are private.
Here’s a link to the Dept. of Ecology web page with some info. Specifically, it says… “Don’t trespass. Many public access beaches are bordered by private property. Please stay within park boundaries.”
The folks at the Long Beach Penninsula Visitors Bureau tell a more complete story…
“Unlike some coastal states, Washington’s tidelands and beaches are not all in public ownership. The state Legislature elected to sell its tidelands and beaches in 1889.The practice continued for about 80 years, until the Legislature changed the law in 1971. Today, an estimated 60 to 70 percent of Washington’s tidelands are in private hands. Public access is available only to about 30 percent of the state’s shorelines… “
When we bought our property a few years ago, the surveyor’s map showed our property extending out into the tideland. Therefore, I assume that your new neighbor is correct. My wife and I don’t object to the occasional beach walker. The newbies might change their mind when they find out it’s not a big problem on Bainbridge, but it’s up to them.