Proposed Law Would Open Beach Access in Massachusetts

It's harder to access the ocean in Massachusetts than any other coastal state in the country, but that could soon change.

2 minute read

September 29, 2021, 10:00 AM PDT

By James Brasuell @CasualBrasuell

A fence shows a walkway to the beach in Cape Cod, Massachusetts.

CO Leong / Shutterstock

"Thanks to a well-meaning ordinance approved by the king of England in the 1600s, modern Massachusetts (as well as Maine, due to the fact that it was once part of Massachusetts) today has what are considered the most restrictive ocean access laws in the country," according to a paywalled article by Billy Baker.  The law was one of the first to fracture the Public Trust Doctrine first expressed in Roman law and passed down through millennia until it came to Massachusetts.

That could change soon, however, after state legislators proposed a new law that hinges on a single word: recreation. Baker explains more:

Under the Massachusetts interpretation of the Public Trust Doctrine, a state law known as Chapter 91, the public can access “private tidelands’’ for only three purposes: “fishing, fowling, and navigation.’’ When it was formalized in 1866, Chapter 91 was meant to protect how the public customarily used the sea.

State Senator Julian Cyr and State Representative Dylan Fernandes are proposing that the Chapter 91 be rewritten to add recreation to the "fishing, fowling, and navigation" protections in Chapter 91, as Baker explains in the article.

Experts and stakeholders on either side of the issue present their case in the remainder of the article. One key consideration in the debate is climate change, and the public assistance some coastal landowners, who might be resistant to the proposed law, will require to deal with the effects of sea-level rise.

Thursday, September 9, 2021 in The Boston Globe

View of Mount Hood at golden hour with Happy Valley, Oregon homes in foreground.

Clackamas County Votes to Allow ADUs, Residential RVs

County officials hope the zoning changes will help boost the housing supply in the region.

June 18, 2024 - Mountain Times

Single-family homes in a suburban neighborhood in Florida.

New Florida Law Curbs HOA Power

The legislation seeks to cut down on ‘absurd’ citations for low-level violations.

June 16, 2024 - The Guardian

Aerial view of intersection in New York City with yellow cabs and zebra crosswalks.

Planners’ Complicity in Excessive Traffic Deaths

Professor Wes Marshall’s provocatively-titled new book, "Killed by a Traffic Engineer," has stimulated fierce debates. Are his criticisms justified? Let’s examine the degree that traffic engineers contribute to avoidable traffic deaths.

June 13, 2024 - Todd Litman

Digital drawing of person holding city skyline with wifi symbols and lines indicating smart cities or data.

Cities Awarded for Data-Driven Projects

The What Cities Works Certification recognizes cities for using data to solve real problems.

June 21 - Smart Cities Dive

The Basilica of St. Joseph in San Jose, California.

Faith-Based Housing Movement Grows

More churches and municipalities are saying ‘Yes in God’s Backyard.’

June 21 - Vox

Close-up of red and white BUS LANE sign painted in street lane.

Why BRT Can Benefit Cities More Than Rail

Bus rapid transit lines offer a less expensive, quicker-build alternative to rail that can bring other infrastructure improvements with it.

June 21 - Governing

City Planner I

Department of Housing and Community Development

City Planner II

Department of Housing and Community Development

City Planner Supervisor

Department of Housing and Community Development

Urban Design for Planners 1: Software Tools

This six-course series explores essential urban design concepts using open source software and equips planners with the tools they need to participate fully in the urban design process.

Planning for Universal Design

Learn the tools for implementing Universal Design in planning regulations.