Federal Investment Means More Public Beach Access
FORT MYERS - When Kate Gooderham first moved to Florida in 1973, she drove down the east coast of the state trying to find a public beach parking lot so she could walk out and see the Atlantic Ocean. It was a difficult task.
"Back then, it was more difficult to find public beach access; but, thanks to federal regulations on beach restoration projects, it is now much easier," explained Gooderham, who is the executive director of the American Shore and Beach Preservation Association.
Beach restoration projects turn eroded beaches into wide, sandy beaches, but there's more to a beach restoration project than putting sand on the beach. When the federal government (as well as many state and local governments) puts tax dollars to work in beach restoration projects, they mandate improvements to public beach access, parking and facilities, such as restrooms.
This means that when coastal communities seek government funds for beach projects, in order to get maximum funding they often have to acquire and develop beach accesses.
"This program has opened up the public's ability to go to the beach and enjoy the beach." Gooderham said. "The fact that the beach has had sand placed on it provides more recreational opportunities, but you can't get to the beach if there is no public access. This is part of the motive behind the federal regulations."
Gooderham said more people use America's beaches than all national parks combined, proving how much of an asset beaches are to the American public. Additionally, Gooderham said the next U.S. Census figures will show Americans continue to live near the coast, with more than 50 percent of Americans choosing to live within 50 miles of a coast nationwide.
Many state and local governments also include beach access and parking in their requirements for funding beach restoration projects. This further encourages the availability of public beach access.
"It's important to point out that for this reason, America's most heavily used beaches are restored beaches," Gooderham said. This includes such iconic beaches as Jones Beach in New York, Ocean City in Maryland, Virginia Beach, Miami Beach in Florida, Galveston Island in Texas and Waikiki Beach in Hawaii, among many others around the country.
What this means is that beaches are more open and there is more access to them than there would be without the federal funding requirements. "It takes away the stigma that only wealthy people go to the beach," Gooderham said. "Improved beach access allows all Americans to enjoy the beach."
For more information about beach access, visit www.asbpa.org.
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