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To help the public get to and enjoy the coast, CZM helps protect and promote public access in a variety of ways—from providing information about coastal access sites, to informing the public of their rights along the shoreline, to supporting regulatory efforts to maintain and improve public access opportunities.
The CZM Public Access Program maintains these online resources:
CZM supports state regulatory efforts to protect and enhance public access. The Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP) regulates development in tidal waters and on former tidal areas that are now filled. In these “tidelands,” property rights are held by the state in trust for the benefit of the public. CZM worked with MassDEP to develop the regulations that protect these public rights—Chapter 91 or the Waterways Regulations (PDF, 2 MB). (A brief explanation of Chapter 91 is available on page 35 of Environmental Permitting in Massachusetts.) These regulations require that virtually every license MassDEP issues for shorefront property development—from the simplest pier to the most elaborate mixed-use complex on Boston’s waterfront—include conditions that establish an accessway at the water’s edge for public pedestrian use. CZM actively reviews project applications to help make sure that these requirements are met.
CZM also supports regulatory protection of public access rights through its responsibility for overseeing the preparation of Municipal Harbor Plans (MHPs)—official plans approved by the state that establish a community’s objectives, standards, and policies for guiding public and private use of land and water within Chapter 91 jurisdiction. Through this planning process, CZM can help communities develop a comprehensive blueprint for public access to their waterfront.
In addition, CZM provides technical assistance to help communities reclaim rights-of-way to the sea. CZM’s 200-page guide, Preserving Historic Rights of Way to the Sea: A Practical Handbook for Preserving Public Access in Massachusetts (2nd ed., June 1999) (PDF, 4 MB), gives hands-on information for municipal officials, attorneys, and citizen access advocates looking to research and secure public property rights in old footpaths and other pedestrian accessways that still exist in law, but are no longer used by (or even known to) the public.