Volume 7, Issue 1, Spring 2015
Matthew G. McKay
Reflecting on Access to Common Property Coastal Resources via a Case Study along Connecticut’s Shoreline
Public access to the commons is often restricted, thus leading to implicit regulations (in addition to explicit barriers that exclude who can and who cannot utilize the commons). This is relevant toward spatial systems, as an important geographical issue is access to various sites over space (Heatwole and West 1980), and this paper presents varying degrees of accessibility in different places (i.e., municipal and state jurisdictions in the United States, with a particular emphasis on Connecticut’s coastline). There is a dialectic struggle to enhance access to the commons as a fundamental right of the public, with the need to balance tourism and recreational uses of coastal resources with conservation and preservation eff orts. This paper will aid policy makers and those concerned with beach access in Connecticut (and beyond) better understand the nature and complexity of how citizens and officials within coastal municipalities have come to perceive, in a collective sense, their beaches/ municipal parks as common property resources to be utilized for recreational purposes while balancing environmental conservation efforts simultaneously. Various legal frameworks, as well as federal and state efforts in coastal zones in key states (including Connecticut), in addition to historically recent court cases in Connecticut resulting in legal enhancements toward increasing public access to nonresidents of specific municipalities, have shaped who can and who cannot access the commons.