2002-08-31 / Editorial/Opinion

Who Owns The Beach?

Who Owns The Beach?

The coming of Labor Day and the traditional end of the summer does not end the question of who owns the beach and how it should be utilized by the people who live in Rockaway. Just this week, we received a communication from a person who was ticketed on the beach for leaving his beach blanket unattended. Add him to the list of locals who have received tickets for walking on the beach after "closing hours," surfing when lifeguards are not on duty, surfing when lifeguards are on duty, fishing from the jetty, fishing from the beach, sitting on lifeguard chairs after "closing hours," and sitting on the beach after "closing hours," and you begin to see what the problem has become. We agree that it is dangerous to swim when lifeguards are not on duty and we have often warned people against that reckless action. We do not agree that people simply using the beach on a hot summer night should be moved along like common criminals. When the local police community affairs officers were questioned by a local city councilman about the ticket for leaving a blanket alone, the councilman’s representative was reportedly told that there have been a rash of thefts from blankets and the police were trying to protect citizen’s from that crime. It seems to us that the police should be targeting those who steal the personal possessions rather than those who are foolish enough to leave them unguarded. It has long been our contention that foolishness is not criminal, but the people getting who get tickets for leaving their blankets seem to be targeted for just that reason. There are battles over beach access all over the nation. In California, for example, people who live on the beach have hired private guards to keep outsiders, who have the right to use the ocean, from using the beach as well. Here in Rockaway the question is simpler. Will people be reasonably able to use the amenity that they came to live nearby in the first place? Who owns the beach? Right now, it seems as if the police have the deed and visitors to the beach are not welcome.


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