Signs of Progress
Blocking up the scenery, breaking my mind
Do this, don’t do that, can’t you read the sign
When we first started taking these trips to the beach, there was a paucity of development around here that is kind of surprising in retrospect. What used to be our condo and a condo a couple miles in each direction has since become wall-to-wall condos. Hurricanes knock them down, developers put them back up two-fold.
This is not entirely inconvenient. For instance, we have a side balcony that the neighboring complex wonderfully blocks the sun for. The sun has more buildings to hide behind in the early evening, and so I get more shade-time. But mostly, it was better for us before all of this. We could walk miles in each direction in near-complete peace. Mom could watch the sunset.
What’s happened since, though, is what happens with more people and density: Rules.
The latest addition is that of the property line. Each development, more or less, has put up signs on their beach making it be known that so-and-so area of beach is for guests of Such & Such Condo Development.
So I jumped the fence and I yelled at the house
Hey, what gives you the right?
To put up a fence and keep me out or to keep mother nature in
If God was here He’d tell it to your face, man you’re some kind of sinner
I’m in solidly red country. I’m from solidly red country, though a different state. The beaches back home are protected, to some extent, by Open Beaches law. Not perfectly protected, as there is a constant stream of conflict between land owners and beach goers. But the position on the field of the debate seems to be far more generous to the latter group than here.
Which, perhaps growing up where I did, strikes me as it should be. Beaches should be open! Communism uber alles!
More seriously, we’re talking about a pretty limited resource and a place where wealth is. Public access to these things justifiable to me. Because of the reasons I can put forth? Or because it’s a communism that I am used to? (I am aware that I am using the c-term with ridiculous breadth, but I do so anyway because I enjoy the irony.
Looking up state law here, apparently “public beach” is only really defined as the wet part of the beach, with a theoretical (but apparently ignored, according to the paper I read on it) nod towards an easement.
Ultimately, I don’t think it’s the case that the resorts here are going to call the police on anyone who crosses the property line. It certainly doesn’t seem to be enforced like the condo pools are enforced (and even that doesn’t require a key or anything, just a guy who keeps an eye on things) Thinking it through, I suspect it’s mostly about two or three things.
First, having the latitude to kick out people who are causing a ruckus. It’s hard to have rules like “no boom boxes” without the ability to enforce the rules, and it’s hard to have the ability to enforce the rules if you have to open the beach up to the public.
Second, monetizing! Our current resort has taken to lining up some pretty nice recliners and tents for a nice little fee. Having more control over “their” beach allows them to prevent people from setting up anything blocking the view from these nice recliners. To be fair to the condo, they actually seem to be pretty reasonable on their expectations. I’d put up a much bigger fuss if they were trying to keep all non-payers off the beach (though that might cost them condo business?), instead simply saying that your tents and towels must be behind the recliner/tents and can’t be above the not-entirely-unreasonable size of ten square feet.
The possible third is liability concern.
So with all of this, I suppose the system works, more or less. They haven’t cut off public access to the beach area, even if your ability to go left and right is hindered once you’re there. The signs are up, but security isn’t bird-dogging it.
There are also, of course, arguments in favor of private ownership and control of beaches, along the lines of how private ownership of forests is good for forests.
Even so, I find the proliferation of signs to be something of a bummer, and I hope that it doesn’t ultimately go further than it already has.