Frequently Asked Questions

Here are common, general questions about coastal access sorted by the category of people that most often ask them. You can also find more information in the Coastal Access Toolkit's Glossary sections.

Private Waterfront Landowner

Q  As a private landowner, what is the extent of my rights?

A  You have the right to determine who can access your waterfront land above the mean high tide, by either inviting or licensing them. Those who access your property against your will may be trespassing. Limitations on your lands can occasionally be imposed by law, including the potential for prescriptive easements, public easements, and easements by necessity.

Q  What are my liability protections from the public using my land?

A Mississippi landowners benefit from a law that protects landowners from liability, should someone become injured while using their land. The Mississippi Recreational Use Statute limits the liability of landowners who provide access to their land or water areas to the public for outdoor recreational purposes, such as fishing or water sports.

Q  I can no longer afford the rising costs affiliated with my waterfront land. What are my options for reducing my costs, while retaining most of my interests in the property?

A  As a waterfront property owner, you can sell an easement or partial property interest. There are a number of kinds of easements and ways that they can address access, including conservation easements and floating easements. Because easements do not require the entire parcel, they would provide you with significantly less income than selling the full title to the property. However, the easement would allow you to retain ownership of the property, subject to the terms of the easement. In addition to income generating from selling an easement, you may also qualify for tax breaks if you grant a qualifying conservation easement.

A charitable remainder trust provides for eventual guaranteed distribution of the trust assets to charity, thus gaining a substantial tax benefit. For example, a person wishing to donate their land to a land trust to provide public access, but still live on the land can achieve this arrangement by putting the land in a trust, with the land eventually (after their death) going to the land trust. There can be tax benefits, and possible income to the trust beneficiary during the period the land is held in trust.

Government or Public Interest Entity

Q  I am the town planner (or member of the comprehensive planning committee or on the planning board, etc.). I would like to know more about incorporating public coastal water access needs and opportunities into the town’s plans and programs. What are some of my options?

A  To better address coastal access issues, a municipality should identify and define the issue in its comprehensive plan, zoning ordinances, and other local regulations. If a city has not done so, it should consider creating zones that identify coastal access priorities or that overlay areas where there are coastal access concerns. Locations and definitions of waterfront and water-dependent uses should be identified. In areas where things like aquaculture or seafood processing are the dominant activity, a Working Waterfront Overlay District may help distinguish the access needs of seafood industries from those of beach tourists. It is also advisable that cities change their comprehensive plans to include a waterfront component, something that acknowledges improved coastal access as a city goal. When undertaking this process, cities should consult the state laws and regulations to determine the scope and level of oversight they have to plan for beach access.

Waterfront User

Q  We use private land to get to the coast and want to secure future access. What are our options?

A  To secure your access to private waterfront lands, you can either acquire the land outright or acquire partial rights to the land, such as in an easement. You may also work with your local government or land trust to support or raise money for the acquisition of property to enhance coastal access.

As a user of private waterfront lands, you can also enter into a private agreement or contract with the landowner, either formally or informally, drawing up specific terms as to who can use the land, when, and how.

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