Visitors to Cape Cod, especially those from other parts of the US, are often puzzled by the beach signs saying "No trespassing - Private Property". And every year around this time the issue raises its ugly head as beachgoers and property owners clash about who owns what and where.
According to a recent article in the Cape Cod Times, of the 1500 miles of coastline in Massachusetts, 85% of it is privately held. Going back to the "Colonial Ordinance of 1641-47", ownership of beachfront property extends to the low water mark. Does that mean no one can ever walk across a private beach?
As a regular jogger, I often run in the early morning on the Northside Dennis beaches. Only once in the 11 years I've been doing so have I been asked by an owner not to trespass on his private beach. I invoked the loophole law established in the 1800's that allowed public access on private beachfront for the purposes of "fishing, fowling and navigating". I was simply "navigating" my way home. This seemed to satisfy him, but ever since I have been very respectful of the rights of the beachfront property owners.
Which brings me to a very important point made by the CC Times article - "The root of most beach conflicts is bad manners." Truer words were never spoken! A little bit of civility goes a long way in these matters. Who knows, you may be invited to lay your towel down and spend the day!
In conclusion, the fact is that in Massachusetts, most of the shoreline is privately owned and will probably remain that way. In the meantime, the public beaches, particularly in the town of Dennis, are fabulous - get there early and enjoy them!!