In coastal cities and beachside towns across the country, beach and water access is being threatened every day. From regulated and restricted access hours, locked gates, development, to economic barriers, and even inadequate climate adaptation, the public’s ability to access public beaches and the ocean are being severely limited.
I’ve experienced two recent incidents myself at Florida’s Miami Marine Stadium Park, where private security guards from Kent Security and the City of Miami Police Department have attempted to prevent access to the public space by turning people around at the park entrance and in the process preventing non-consumptive and low-impact activities like paddleboarding (despite posted regulations specifically allowing for the recreational use of the beach and water areas). In some instances, individuals have even been told by City of Miami police officers that they could be arrested for trespassing if they did not leave the area.
In further communication with the City of Miami Police Department, it was found that there was no official record of these incidents, as the Marine Stadium Park is beyond the department’s jurisdictional boundaries. In combination with the aggressiveness of the private security guards, this information raises many questions about rogue enforcement of public spaces – another topic that must be addressed but also serves the argument for individuals to know and understand their own rights to access.
On Thursday, December 21st, 2017, after hearing about these incidents, the Surfrider Foundation Miami Chapter met with City Commissioner Ken Russell (an avid waterman himself) and several other members of the City government, including the Director of Parks & Recreation and the Director of the Department of Real Estate and Asset Management to discuss the issue and to protect the sandy and watery places they love. City officials apologized for the incidents in which access to the beaches, water, and park was prevented and stated that the area is open to the public for the enjoyment of this natural area, with exception to special permitted events. They acknowledged private security officers employed by the city were in the wrong and had overstepped their authority in addition to the established laws and regulations.
As a solution, Commissioner Russell will be releasing a memorandum to all of the key government groups related to the Marine Stadium Park clarifying that the area is open to all. These memorandums will be aimed at improving communication and coordination across the various departments to prevent issues such as the previous access incidents from occurring.
In this case, a simple discussion brought about a resolution to the issues with beach and water access at the Miami Marine Stadium. But, what would have happened if this issue was not brought to the attention of city officials? Being able to access and enjoy the places you love is your right as a member of the public. If you experience a situation in which beach or water access is prevented, follow these steps and then contact your local Surfrider Foundation Chapter.
Note: The Surfrider Foundation is dedicated to the protection and enjoyment of the world’s ocean, waves, and beaches through a powerful activist network. They work with decision-making bodies to evaluate each beach access issue that arises. Surfrider also pursues litigation to ensure full and fair access to all beaches, for all people.