The Public Trust Doctrine is a legal principle that dates back nearly 2000 years, which holds that the air, the sea and the shore belong not to any one person, but rather to the public at large.
Yesterday my husband, our dog, and I were walking along Wonson’s Cove in the muck of the low tide zone when a woman approached us, at first with a friendly hello. We smiled back and said hello. She immediately became confrontational and informed us that we were trespassing, demanding that we turn around and leave. We politely said that we believed we had the right to walk across the beach especially as we were heading to the Wonson’s public landing. She became livid and said she was going to call the police. I said okay, call the police. She then made some very rude remarks.
I do not wish to inconvenience or offend any property owner however, I had my camera and we were clearly only there to enjoy the great beauty of the cove. We were not littering or damaging the beach in anyway, as a matter of fact, large amounts of trash washes ashore and accumulates at that little beach and I have often come home with armfuls.
What has been your experience in a similar situation?
Below I’ve posted the Public Trust Doctrine of Chapter 91, The Public Waterfront Act, and underlined the information I think is particularly pertinent for photographers and for all lovers of nature. The complete chapter is posted in the Read More section and here is the link to the Mass DEP, or Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection page that highlights Chapter 91.
Through Chapter 91, the Commonwealth seeks to preserve and protect the rights of the public, and to guarantee that private uses of tidelands and waterways serve a proper public purpose:
Preserves pedestrian access along the water’s edge for fishing, fowling and navigation and, in return for permission to develop non-water dependent projects on Commonwealth tidelands, provides facilities to enhance public use and enjoyment of the water.
Seeks to protect and extend public strolling rights, as well as public navigation rights.
Protects and promotes tidelands as a workplace for commercial fishing, shipping, passenger transportation, boat building and repair, marinas and other activities for which proximity to the water is either essential or highly advantageous.
Protects Areas of Critical Environmental Concern, ocean sanctuaries and other ecologically sensitive areas from unnecessary encroachment by fill and structures.
Protects the rights of waterfront property owners to approach their property from the water.
Encourages the development of city and town harbor plans to dovetail local waterfront land use interests with the Commonwealth’s statewide concerns.
Assures removal or repair of unsafe or hazardous structures.