Verify: Can access to a public Texas beach be restricted?
Under the Texas Open Beaches Act, the public has the free and unrestricted right to access Texas beaches. According to the Texas General Land Office, there may be some exceptions to this rule.
GALVESTON COUNTY, Texas — After hundreds of arrests and multiple injuries during Go Topless Weekend in Galveston County led to an online petition to end the event, 12News set out to answer questions about public access to Texas beaches.
Can public access to a Texas public beach be restricted?
Under the Texas Open Beaches Act, the public has the free and unrestricted right to access Texas beaches.
According to the Texas General Land Office, there may be some exceptions to this rule.
Karina Erickson, the communications director for the Texas General Land Office spoke to 12News on Monday.
"There's a couple different rules that regulate this. There's the dune protection act that does provide enforcement authority for officials to provide tickets to individuals who are driving vehicles or ATVs through the dunes," Erickson said.
The Dune Protection Act tells you where you can't go on the beach. You can't drive through the dunes.
When it comes to crowd control, are there any options?
"There's also the state rules that in the Texas administrative code, that outline the fact that local governments can use their existing authority to close individual beach access points for emergencies related to public safety. "
In order to make this happen, GLO and the county must work together to set standards and procedures for such emergency closures.
All of this must be done ahead of time, before a major event, like Go Topless Weekend.
The plan must include the dune protection and lay out specifics of beach access.
While it's complicated, we can verify that yes, public access to a public beach can be restricted, but only under special circumstances.