Wednesday, October 24, 2012, 3:51 PM

Life’s A Beach

We were recently at NC’s Wrightsville Beach for work and it got us thinking about the Coastal Area Management Act, or CAMA.

CAMA is a section of our state law enacted in 1974 to protect our estuarine, beach dune and coastal ecology in the 20 easternmost NC counties by requiring comprehensive planning for the protection, orderly development, and management of the coastal area. We have more than 3,000 miles of coastline – a few of which are seen below.

One of the key provisions of CAMA is to protect the public’s ownership of, and access to, the beaches. From the high tide mark to the dunes is public trust land; from the high tide mark to the water’s edge is state-owned land. Private property is from the dunes inland, and over the years this has been the source of tension and litigation – mostly because dunes shift without regard to private property. If you see a beach cottage forward of the dunes then it has survived a storm, but there may be other dangers often including failing septic which makes the dwelling unlivable. If a cottage is sufficiently damaged during a storm event and the lot would not be buildable if starting from scratch….we’ll save that bad news for another day.

Say you want to visit the beaches on a NC island that is a private community. The community can keep you and your car out, but it can’t stop you from landing your boat and setting up for a day in the sand and waves. We find that most communities work to accommodate the beach-going public with available nearby parking and beach access paths paid for by grant funds.

Local governments do have the authority to regulate many uses on the public trust lands – some examples are driving on the beach, having dogs on the beach or, ahem, nudity.

Yes, life may be a beach but whose beach is it really?


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