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Public Rights in Water: Public Access & Beaches

Accessing Coastal and Tidal Areas

  • The Public Trust Doctrine provides access along the shore below the mean high water line, but it does not include the right to cross private property to reach the shore.  Therefore, access to the shore varies greatly, depending on the availability of roads and public paths 
  • The right to access tidal waters and shores is well established.  Both access to and ownership of tidal wetlands and beaches is defined by the Public Trust Doctrine.  According to the Doctrine, navigable waters and the underlying lands were publicly owned at the time of statehood and remains so today.  

State Variation on Coastal Ownership


Four Ways Public May Legally Gain Access to Beaches

Four Ways in Which the Public May Legally Gain Access to the Beach:

  1. Public Trust Doctrine
  2. Custom
  3. Dedication
  4. Prescription

Trepanier v. County of Volusia, 965 So. 2d 276 (Fla. 5th DCA 2007).

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