Tag Archives: Public beach access

Public Beach Access: A Deep Dive

The issue of public beach access has been a topic of debate in Connecticut for many years. Connecticut’s shoreline is home to many private beaches, which are often inaccessible to the public.

The debate over public beach access in Connecticut dates back to the 1800s, when wealthy landowners began to build homes along the state’s shoreline. In the early 20th century, public pressure led to the creation of several state and local parks, which provided public access to some beaches.

However, the issue of public beach access remained contentious, and in the 1960s and 1970s, several lawsuits were filed in an attempt to secure public access to private beaches. In 1971, the Connecticut Supreme Court ruled in the case of Matthews v. Bay Head Improvement Association that the public has a right to access the beach up to the mean high water mark. This ruling established the so-called “public trust doctrine,” which states that the state holds certain natural resources, including tidal waters and the shore, in trust for the public.

In 1975, members of Ned Coll’s Revitalization Corps demonstrated in Old Saybrook, for access to the beach. (Photo courtesy of Bob Adelman)

Despite this ruling, public beach access in Connecticut remains a contentious issue, and many private beach associations continue to limit access to their beaches. In recent years, there have been efforts to increase public beach access through legislation and legal action. In 2021, for example, the Connecticut General Assembly passed a bill that requires beach associations to allow the public to use their beaches in exchange for tax breaks.

Overall, the history of public beach access in Connecticut has been marked by conflict and controversy, but there have been some positive developments in recent years that have increased access to the state’s beautiful coastline.

Public beach access in Connecticut involves both pros and cons.


Equal access: Public beach access ensures that all people, regardless of income or social status, have the right to enjoy the state’s natural resources. This creates a more equitable and inclusive society, and allows everyone to enjoy the beauty and benefits of the state’s coastline.

Economic benefits: Public beach access can have positive economic impacts on local communities, as it can attract visitors, boost tourism, and support local businesses such as restaurants and hotels. This can result in increased revenue and employment opportunities.

Environmental protection: Public beach access can promote environmental protection and conservation, as it raises public awareness about the importance of preserving natural resources, such as beaches, dunes, and coastal habitats. This can encourage people to be more responsible and respectful towards the environment.

There is plenty of room at Compo Beach. But how crowded is “too” crowded? (Drone photo/Brandon Malin)


Cost: Providing public beach access can be costly for towns and cities, as it requires investment in infrastructure, maintenance, and staff. This can be a burden on local budgets, and may result in higher taxes or fees for residents.

Overcrowding: Public beach access can lead to overcrowding, especially during peak tourist season. This can result in congestion, traffic, and litter, which can negatively impact the environment and the quality of the beach experience.

Property rights: Some people argue that public beach access infringes on property rights of private beach owners, who have invested in maintaining and improving their beaches. They argue that it is unfair to force them to allow access to their beaches, which can result in security and liability issues.

Overall, public beach access in Connecticut can provide a range of benefits, but it also has some challenges and limitations. The debate over how to balance the interests of property owners, local communities, and the general public is ongoing, and requires careful consideration of the potential impacts and trade-offs involved.

Interesting, no? But I have a confession to make: I did not research or write this. Neither did an “06880” reader. Today’s post was generated entirely by ChatGPT, the chatbot launched in November that has electrified the world (and terrified educators).

My only involvement with today’s post was generating the questions for ChatGPT, selecting the photos, and writing the headline and this end note.

My takeaway: We have much more to fear from this new technology, than from opening our beaches to non-residents.