Pressure on Coastal Waterfronts Increasing on U.S. Shores; Communities Turn to Creative Solutions

Contact: Catherine Schmitt, 207-581-1434; Kristen Whiting-Grant, 207-646-1555, ext. 115

ORONO, Me. – People forced off fishing docks in Alabama. Waiting lists for moorings in Massachusetts. Public paths to the beach blocked in California. Commercial waterfronts eclipsed by private residences in Maine. Coasts transformed by condominiums in North Carolina. Marinas and boat ramps crowded in Florida. These scenes are not featured on the postcards of today, yet they are real and they are happening all around the U.S. coastline, according to a report released today by Maine Sea Grant at the University of Maine.

The report, “Access to the Waterfront: Issues and Solutions Across the Nation,” contains the results of a survey of over 140 coastal managers and extension agents conducted by Maine Sea Grant, Hawaii Sea Grant, the National Sea Grant network and Coastal Zone Management programs. The survey found that access to and from the ocean is a challenge in many communities. With nowhere to swim and nowhere to land, recreational, commercial, and industrial users of the coast are competing for access, placing pressure on America’s shorelines as a tide of demographic and economic change sweeps through coastal towns, harbors and communities.

Respondents to the survey cited multiple reasons for these changes, including increasing population and development, rising coastal property values, declines in fishing and other industries and shifting land ownership patterns. Resulting pressure on remaining public areas and infrastructure also means increased pressure on fragile coastal habitat, and coastal managers have limited resources to address these challenges. Disasters like hurricanes magnify and exacerbate conflicts, as detailed in a special section of the report about access issues in the wake of hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

According to Natalie Springuel of Maine Sea Grant, lead author of the report, one of the main goals of the survey and report was not only to cover the scope of the issue nationwide, but also to highlight the various solutions that communities are developing throughout the country.

“This report is full of stories from places around the country where specific tools have been used with great success, so there is a good news message, too,” said Springuel. Private entities are preserving land, people in the fishing industry are partnering with land trusts, and citizens are voting for bonds to protect working waterfronts. States are implementing tax relief programs, while towns are revising zoning ordinances and mapping access points, as Sea Grant and Coastal Zone Management programs are responding to the needs of coastal residents.

“It is evident that these issues are of critical importance to people all over the country, and we hope this project helps communities, businesses, and individuals to respond to these challenges more effectively,” says Maine Sea Grant Director Paul Anderson, who presented the survey results May 9 in Norfolk, Va., at Working Waterways and Waterfronts 2007, a symposium hosted by Virginia Sea Grant.

“We hope this report prompts discussion of a nationwide strategy to address coastal access conflicts at the local, regional and national level,” Springuel concludes, “Open access to and from the water, supported by a national strategy, will ensure that our nation is vibrant and diverse, and that the delicate ecosystems where land meets water continue to sustain and inspire future generations.”

The full report is available at, or in hard copy from Maine Sea Grant, 207-581-1435,