Americans are gradually losing the freedom to access beaches and coastal areas along the ocean and the Great Lakes, according to a new analysis from the Hispanic Access Foundation and the Center for American Progress that urges new policies to restore access and protect coastal areas from climate change.
The authors analyzed the coastal access laws of coastal and Great Lakes states to determine the strength of their public access legal protections. The study finds that only 10 percent of coastal areas in the United States have strong legal protections to ensure equitable public access.
Historic levels of funding for coastal restoration and resilience from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act and the Inflation Reduction Act present an opportunity for the government to protect coastal communities from the impacts of climate change by restoring vital coastal areas while also expanding equitable public access to the ocean and nature.
“Historic segregation, discrimination, and exclusion have allowed privatization of coastal areas by the privileged,” said Kat So, a research associate at CAP and co-author of the brief. “All Americans should have the ability to enjoy the beautiful coastal areas of this country.”
“Latinos are among the fastest-growing demographics living on the coast, as well as among new recreational fishers, boaters and outdoor enthusiasts,” said Shanna Edberg, director of Conservation Programs for Hispanic Access Foundation and co-author of the brief. “Yet our communities face a gap in access to nature, including coastlines, and are among the most vulnerable to an over-polluted ocean with dwindling natural resources and increased climate threats. Facilitating public access with more protected coastal areas will allow all communities to enjoy our country’s beautiful outdoor spaces.”
The authors make several recommendations to increase equitable coastal access:
- Require that coastal projects that use federal funds provide coastal access
- Create an Equitable Coastal Access Advisory Group at the federal level
- Work to improve all dimensions of public access
- Protect and conserve more coastal areas
Read the issue brief: “How To Fix Americans’ Diminishing Access to the Coasts,” by Kat So, Miriam Goldstein, and Shanna Edberg