Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Community Planning (MCP)


Community Planning and Area Development


The shores of our oceans and Great Lakes have always carried an appeal to persons seeking escape from the pressures of work and routine. The shore is different and unique. It offers unlimited open space, tempering weather, and a refreshing feeling of freedom that makes its use for recreation a natural occurrence. But persons who want to use the shore for recreation often cannot. They may find that suitable space is too far away, too crowded, or simply not open to them. This is the issue of coastal recreation access.

Access, for the purposes of this paper, can be defined as the ability to use the shore for recreation. Coastal access can be as simple as a visual openness to the water from public roads, unimpeded by structures, vegetation or topography. More often it is a complex mixture of legal restrictions, discriminatory attitudes, and physical barriers that keep large segments of our populace from enjoying the freedom of beach use.

This paper will attempt to analyze the complex components of the recreational access issue. It will emphasize access to beaches--sandy shorefronts and related immediate uplands and dunes--because most coastal recreation takes place in these areas. Swimming, bathing, surfing, beachwalking, sunning, skindiving, jogging, picnicking, fishing, and many other recreational pursuits are best suited to beach areas. Boating, shellfishing, waterskiing, camping and sight seeing are among the coastal recreational activities that do not require sandy beach. These activities are included in this study to the extent that they are affected by restricted shore access. Problems of boat mooring space, benthic pollution, and competition among recreational uses of the shore are treated only superficially here, however, as these issues are complex in themselves and beyond the scope of this study.

The nature and intensity of the problems comprising the access issue vary widely from state to state ·and between different regions within states. Reasons for this variation include physical area of beach, ownership patterns, geologic conditions, population density, and differences in laws and their interpretation by the courts. The access issue in some form is universal; it is most severe in the Northeast.



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