The end of Texas’ open beaches may be near

Cars line the beach in Port Aransas during Spring Break 2019 on Wednesday, March 13, 2019.

Cars line the beach in Port Aransas during Spring Break 2019 on Wednesday, March 13, 2019.

Texas is unique among coastal states. The Texas Open Beaches Act of 1959, as well as time-honoured common law and tradition that existed long before 1959, dictate that Texas beaches be open to the public. In 2009, Texans voted by a majority of 77 percent to 23 percent to enshrine the Open Beaches Act in the Texas constitution.

Unfortunately, public access to Texas’ beaches could soon end if the laws tabled in Austin go into effect.

Senate Bill 434, by Sen. Mayes Middleton of Galvestonwould strip the Texas General Land Office of the authority to define the boundaries of the public beach and allow the upland beach property owner to make that decision.

More:Padre Island National Seashore is soliciting public input for the beach management plan. Here’s what it means.

The property owner could then deny access to the public beach easement that existed between the vegetation line and mid-tide mark. That would then limit Texas beachgoers’ access to the so-called “wet beach” — the area between the high and low tides. If waves lapped this area at high tide, SB 434 would result in no beach at all for Texans.

When SB 434 passes, don’t be surprised if you turn up at your favorite beach and are confronted with a fenced beach or no signage. Then all you have left is a lawsuit against the adjacent highland owner.

Yes, on your next trip to the beach you should consider taking your lawyer with you. You should also be prepared to lug your kids, cooler, and beach gear through the shallow tide waters to enjoy the beach.

Beach property owners cannot claim ignorance of the public beach easement. Since 1986, they have received the reference to the public beach easement in the documents they sign upon graduation.

Ironically, SB 434 not only harms Texas beachgoers, but also beachfront property owners. Public money must be spent for a public purpose. The land registry and local governments will not be able to spend money on improving properties without public access.

There will be no beach renewal projects, no beach cleaning, and no beach maintenance in areas where property owners claim the beach has no public access.

A major beach renewal project is currently operational at Jamaica Beach on Galveston Island, which is being cancelled. In addition, coastal property developers are hampered when the Land Office is no longer able to determine the survey data needed to determine setback lines for coastal development.

Please join us in opposing SB 434. Contact your state senators and state officials.

You can find their contact information at Texas Legislature Online at

God bless Texas.

David Dewhurst, Garry Mauro and Jerry Patterson are former Texas Land Commissioners.

This article originally appeared in the Corpus Christi Caller Times: Opinion: The end of Texas’ open beaches may be near The end of Texas’ open beaches may be near

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