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WAMU

Opinion | New beach access law is confusing and dangerous

Rick Scott signed House Bill 631 into law last year and introduced sweeping changes to local governments’ ability to keep beaches open and usable by the public. The law has not been understood well for a lot of reasons, but here is what it does as it relates to our beaches:

• The law gave beachfront property owners the right of "ejectment." This means that property owners can eject people from "their" part of the beach under penalty of trespassing.

• The law essentially took away the right of local governments to pass their own "customary use" laws that protect public use of privately owned beaches.

• The law created a legal process that shifted the burden from property owners to local governments.

Before HB 631, a property owner could sue for a judgement declaring that their section of beach had never been used by the public, therefore keeping the beach private. Now, they can just put up a fence or cones and it is up to the government to sue the property owner and prove that the public has always used that beach.

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