Amid lawsuit, county tears down barriers blocking beachfront walkway in Aptos

APTOS — The latest in a series of beach-access disputes came to a head Tuesday morning as work crews demolished a wall and a fence blocking off both sides of what officials say is a public walkway overlooking Rio Del Mar Beach in Aptos.

Apparently put up by privacy-seeking homeowners decades ago, the barriers restricted access to hundreds of feet of beachfront esplanade that state and county officials insist is public property and part of the California Coastal Trail network. Some of the homeowners, meanwhile, claim the property is rightfully theirs.

Pat Veesart, the Coastal Commission’s northern California enforcement supervisor, said the barrier removal is part of an “important public access case.”

“For decades, the homeowners have used the esplanade as if it was their own property, denying the public use of it and forcing moms with strollers to push their strollers down the middle of the street,” Veesart said.

The esplanade, which officials insist is a public right of way, appears to have functioned as a private patio of sorts for guests of and residents of the row of 29 Rio Del Mar homes known as “Beach Island.”

Many of the homes appear to be used as vacation rentals. Online listings for some of the properties, which command premium rates, advertise a “large beachfront patio” in reference to the esplanade.

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