Getting There From Here; Coastal Access Information Now Available in Five States

Contact Kristen Grant, (207) 646-1555 x115,

Across the country, fishermen, kayakers, town officials, and waterfront property owners face local conflicts over access to beaches, rivers, and shorelines. In Maine, where such conflicts revealed a need for information about legal mechanisms for addressing coastal access issues, Maine Sea Grant created an online access resource with funding from the National Sea Grant Law Center.

Seeing that the website—“everything you wanted to know about rights and responsibilities of accessing the coast of Maine”—was adaptable for application in other coastal areas, the National Sea Grant Law Center provided additional small grants to four other Sea Grant Programs to replicate the Maine model in Alabama, Hawaii, Mississippi, New Jersey, and Virginia. These five new websites offer a host of new and expanded features in addition to the legal toolbox for coastal access. Several states plan to add mapping capabilities to their sites in the future.

The Auburn University Marine Extension and Research Center adapted the website for Alabama and Mississippi aided by the expertise of the Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant Legal Program and local stakeholders.

The Hawai’i site created by Hawai’i Sea Grant includes that state’s unique distinction between access to the beach (regulated by counties) and access along the shore (regulated by the state).

NJ Coastal Access, adapted by New Jersey Sea Grant, brought greater awareness to the issue, leading to the administration of a New Jersey Beachgoer Survey to determine their perceptions and needs for public access to New Jersey’s coast.

Virginia Sea Grant’s Accessing the Virginia Coast web tool also serves as the online presence for the Middle Peninsula Chesapeake Bay Public Access Authority, a special unit of government dedicated to improving public access to Virginia’s waterways. The Virginia site features a Working Waterfront Master Plan, and a searchable database of coastal access resources.

“One of the main objectives of the Law Center’s grant competition is to build capacity of individual Sea Grant programs to conduct outreach on legal issues in their states,” said Law Center Director Stephanie Showalter. “It is therefore essential that the tools developed are shared throughout the network. I’m glad the Law Center could facilitate the replication of the Maine website, and I hope other Sea Grant programs will consider adopting and building on this model in their states.”

Website creators hope the new resources will foster cooperative solutions to resolving local coastal access conflicts.