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Monday, June 21, 2021

On Saturday, fight for the right to the beach

Join in group kelp collection at Charlestown Beach


On Saturday, June 26 2021, 10:00 AM at Charlestown Beach supporters of the legal right to use Rhode Island beaches will gather to …. Collect kelp!

This action signifies the right of Rhode Islanders under the state Constitution to, among other things, “collect seaweed” as well as fish, walk and enjoy the shore line.

In Rhode Island, the public has a constitutional right to use the shoreline below the mean high-tide mark. This right has been repeatedly violated by court cases and private beachfront landowners. We call on our state legislators to draft a clear law to codify our right to the shoreline.

On June 6, 2019 a man was arrested for collecting seaweed on a public beach in South Kingstown, RI. The next day, police dropped the charges and apologized. Why? Because neither law enforcement or the landowners who had him arrested could identify a boundary between public and private land. They could not prove trespassing.

When we enjoy our shoreline, we are not trespassing. We are exercising our constitutional right to “to enjoy and freely exercise all the rights of fishery, and privileges of the shore, to which they have been heretofore entitled, under the charter and usages of the state.” (RI Constitution).

No one, not even a private landowner with a hired guard, can take that away from us. Every year these beachfront landowners try to take away more of the public’s shoreline.

We demand a clearly defined statute that codifies our right to the shoreline.

Here is the language in the Constitution:

Articles 16 & 17, the Rhode Island Constitution

Section 16. Compensation for taking of private property for public use — Regulation of fishery rights and shore privileges not public taking. — Private property shall not be taken for public uses, without just compensation. The powers of the state and of its municipalities to regulate and control the use of land and waters in the furtherance of the preservation, regeneration, and restoration of the natural environment, and in furtherance of the protection of the rights of the people to enjoy and freely exercise the rights of fishery and the privileges of the shore, as those rights and duties are set forth in section 17, shall be an exercise of the police powers of the state, shall be liberally construed, and shall not be deemed to be a public use of private property.

Section 17. Fishery rights — Shore privileges — Preservation of natural resources. — The people shall continue to enjoy and freely exercise all the rights of fishery, and the privileges of the shore, to which they have been heretofore entitled under the charter and usages of this state, including but not limited to fishing from the shore, the gathering of seaweed, leaving the shore to swim in the sea and passage along the shore; and they shall be secure in their rights to the use and enjoyment of the natural resources of the state with due regard for the preservation of their values; and it shall be the duty of the general assembly to provide for the conservation of the air, land, water, plant, animal, mineral and other natural resources of the state, and to adopt all means necessary and proper by law to protect the natural environment of the people of the state by providing adequate resource planning for the control and regulation of the use of the natural resources of the state and for the preservation, regeneration and restoration of the natural environment of the state.

Proposed Legislation

In March 2021, RI S0521 was proposed to protect the public’s right to the shoreline.

The bill “Prevents a person from being prosecuted for fishing, gathering seaweed, swimming or passage along the sandy or rocky shoreline within ten feet (10′) of the most recent high tide line.”

It is currently “held for further study” in the RI Legislature. Call your state representative to voice your support for our right to the shore above the waterline.