The Public Trust Doctrine was first articulated in Roman law: “By the law of nature these things are common to mankind the air, running water, the sea, and consequently the shores of the sea.”
This doctrine was passed down through English Common Law to the Thirteen Colonies. Since the United States was established, the Supreme Court has upheld the general principle but has left interpretations to the states.
As many of you know, and have experienced, the topic of pubic access and private waterfront is far from black and white on many of our Pacific Northwest beaches. Even more diverse are homeowners opinions about prime real estate access and acceptance or resistance to usage. As a real estate professional, I have spent countless hours in these conversations. For that reason, after driving Spain’s coast for three weeks, patterns started to emerge.
There are no private beaches in Spain. Spain has over 8000 kilometers of coastline and recent laws prohibit building too close to the sea. This means that the entire coastline is accessible to everybody. The sign “Acceso público a la playa,” directs people when private land needs to be crossed to use the beach.
As a family, we spent lazy days exploring some of the most beautiful sandy beaches in the world that I am certain we would not have access too if private waterfront was a possibility. The downside is that when you turn away from the sea, and face the shore, the high-rises dominate the coast as their ominous shadows darken the small village life that is only visible in remnants or hillsides.
It is hard to say if it should be “all for one” or “one for all.” I have seen, first hand, the pros and cons of both sides of the debate. Whether you own waterfront property or enjoy the use of public waterfront, I think we all agree that it deserves our utmost care.
Therefore, no matter where one falls in this discussion, protection of these coastlines should be at the forefront because, in all their power, they are delicate systems masked only by their overwhelming beauty.
I would love to hear your thoughts on the subject. Please submit your comment below.