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Real property

beach access

In most states some portion of beaches are public land and all members of the public have a right to use that portion of the beach. The ability to walk along the beach is known as lateral beach access.

But the land between where people can park or walk to the beach and where they can enjoy the beach is often private property, making it difficult to provide access to the public while protecting personal property rights. The ability to reach the beach is known as vertical beach access.

Laws regarding public access to beaches vary from state to state but many states recognize the public trust doctrine, a legal doctrine that certain natural resources such as beaches are owned or held by the government in trust for the public’s use and enjoyment and that the government has an obligation to protect and maintain these resources for the public.

In Texas, the public has the right to access and use the beaches along the Gulf of Mexico. This right is protected under the Texas Open Beaches Act (OBA) and the public trust doctrine. The OBA, which is part of the Texas Natural Resources Code, ensures that the public has free and unrestricted access to state-owned beaches. The public trust doctrine further supports this by establishing that certain natural resources, including beaches, are held in trust by the state for the use and enjoyment of the public. Texas recognizes the concept of 'rolling easements,' which means that public beachfront easements can move landward with natural erosion and shore movements, maintaining public access even as coastlines change. However, conflicts can arise between private property rights and public access, particularly when it comes to vertical access to the beach through private lands. The Texas General Land Office typically manages disputes and issues related to public beach access, balancing the rights of property owners with the public's right to beach access.

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