Texas Open Beaches Act
The state of Texas has some 367 miles of Gulf coast beaches. The Texas Open Beaches Act guarantees the public “free and unrestricted access to and use of the beach”. Since the time when Texas was an independent Republic the “wet sand” beach from the line of the low tide to the line of the high tide has been by common law “sovereign”,that is state owned public land. In 1959 the Texas Legislature passed the landmark Texas Open Beaches Act which officially established the right to recreational use of our beaches and tidal waters. Texas beaches are enjoyed by millions of people every year. Families, picnickers, campers, fishermen, surfers, birdwatchers and beachcombers are all guaranteed access to and use of the beach.
What This Means for Texas Beach Users
Basically, the beach washed by the daily tides is public land owned by the state of Texas. The rest of the beach from the high tide line up to the first line of vegetation (often but not always the dune line) may be privately owned but is subject to a public easement which means the public is free to use and enjoy the whole beach. Beachfront property owners may build landward beyond the line of vegetation but no private structure may be on the public beach. Counties and local communities are responsible for keeping the beaches clean and safe and may charge a reasonable access fee to help pay for services. If driving on the beach is restricted, pedestrian access must be provided. The Texas General Land Office administers all public land in Texas and is responsible for seeing that the Open Beaches Act is enforced.
The Texas Open Beaches Act is Threatened
Our Gulf Coast beaches are barrier islands made of sand. Currents, tides, storms and man made additions such as sea walls, jetties and channels all cause the sand to move and the beach to erode in some areas and grow in others. This is a natural process that has been happening for thousands of years. Anyone who builds along the beach, especially in Texas, takes a chance that natural forces will move the beach. Along the upper Texas coast erosion has left over 100 private structures, once behind the vegetation line, now sitting illegally on the public beach. Most of these property owners are understandably upset and fighting the state to prevent the removal of their beach houses. They blame their predicament on the Open Beaches Act and want to have it changed to allow private ownership of the public beach. They are joined by other beachfront property owners who wish to limit public access to the beach giving them in effect, a private beach.
You Can Help Protect the Open Beaches Act
– Write, call or e-mail the Commissioner of the Texas General Land Office, your state representative and state senator and tell them you support the Texas Open Beaches Act. Our elected officials listen to their constituents and you opinion matters.
– E-mail us with questions and to learn how you can help protect our beaches