Government and Public Entities

Municipalities and governments have unique tools available for creating and maintaining public access, such as land use planning and regulatory authority to protect natural resources and water quality. This authority comes from several fundamental legal doctrines that allow governments to use their regulatory power on behalf of the public, with restrictions.

How can municipalities increase public access to the coast, either from land or sea?

There are many tools available for increasing public access. Local governments can create new coastal access sites by purchasing land with water access, or acquiring access rights from a willing seller. See Acquiring Access. Comprehensive planning and local ordinances can reduce the types of development that are incompatible with access, and provide incentives for developers to provide access to the public. See Plan and Zone for Access. Governments can designate certain access points as receiving areas for larger crowds and casual beachgoers. Another tool is the use of pocket parks and other common areas to pull value from the beach further inland. Local governments can also make zoning changes to accommodate high density and mixed-use in areas best suited to accommodate a large influx of visitors.

How can municipalities enhance access infrastructure such as parking, piers, moorings, docks and slips?

Private communities can structure access around shared amenities. Shared boat slips, boardwalks and pavilions can reduce the strain on shoreline access. Also, by leveraging resources, communities can develop amenities that result in a high-quality experience for the residents.

What is the role of land trusts as public interest entities in planning, enhancing, creating, securing and managing access?

Local governments may work with land trusts and conservation organizations as partners to manage and maintain public access areas. For instance, a land trust may hold the easement for public benefit, so although the area is “public” in nature, the land is held by the land trust rather than the government. In some cases, governments may choose to transfer lands to a land trust for long-term management, alleviating the management burden on the local government. For more information, go to the Land Trust page.

What state government programs exist to protect and conserve coastal areas?

The Alabama Department of Conservation & Natural Resources, through the Forever Wild Program, is currently working to expand the number of public natural areas—including vast areas along the coast—to ensure present and future generations can enjoy them. Through this program, the Alabama Department of Conservation & Natural Resources can be a valuable resource in maintaining public beach access.

More Information

Local Zoning