Do State Laws Really Govern Private Beaches?

Sussex County Online User Forums: Sussex County Delaware Discussion Forum: Do State Laws Really Govern Private Beaches?
By bethanybreeze on Wednesday, July 14, 2004 - 11:30 am:

I am a homeowner in North Bethany. Our association wants to allow summer 'dog-hours' on our private beach but supposedly Delaware law prevents this. Who owns our 'private' beach?? Aren't there littoral rights in Delaware? If the federal government 'owns' the ocean beyond the low-tide mark, what does the state own here, and how/why would state laws apply?

By downhomer on Friday, July 16, 2004 - 08:00 am:

bethanybreeze,
what you and the other homeowners in North Bethany actually own (beside your home) is the "access" to the beach. You do not own the beach.
The beaches are not owned privately they are state and federally owned. Therefore thay are owned by all of us. The laws that are put forth to govern all the users of the beach should be adhered to by all. Even
the homeowners who are fortunate enough to have their homes bordering "our" beaches. Thank you for keeping your dog off it.
There are some state owned (access) beaches that do allow dogs. Perhaps you could take the pooch there or let him run in your yard, as I'm sure it has sand (most of Delaware does).

By bethanybreeze on Friday, July 16, 2004 - 02:58 pm:

Okay, this may be correct, but then I'm confused! If 'all of us' own these beaches, then how can it be called a 'private' beach, where nonresidents (or nonrenters) are supposedly only allowed to pass through but not stay on the beach? Just who makes/enforces that rule, which is also a Delaware law?

By John Jelks on Wednesday, May 04, 2005 - 07:22 am:

Bethany Breeze,
"Private Beach" is a misnomer - incorrect. It's "Private Access to Beach". Downhomer is correct. Just ask DNREC about property rights and you will find that the rights of any village North of Bethany ends at the DNREC Blue line, (I think it's 15 or 20 feet WEST of the dunes). So, you do not even "own" the dunes.

Besides, to get metaphysical about this, "my beach; that's an awful lot to own" (paraphrased from Robert Redford in Out of Africa). The more tightly one grips, the more slips through ones fingers.

My point of view spans 40 years in the area and 46 on the planet. -JJ-


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