Manomet, Plymouth, Massachusetts, USA

Manomet, Plymouth, Massachusetts, USA
Manomet, Plymouth, Massachusetts, USA

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Some Manomet Beaches, Manomet, Plymouth, Massachusetts, USA

The Manomet area is one of many along the Southeast Massachusetts coastline that has beautiful beaches. Much/most of this coastline, however, is private property and the beach access points are not open to the public. While it's generally true that, by law, most of the beach in Massachusetts below the mean high tide line is public (more on this point later) - some areas are not public and are likely to remain in private ownership forever into the future.  In any case, the areas shown in this blog post are located in private and residential neighborhoods. One must live and own here and/or be a member of a beach association that owns/controls access to a particular beach area in order to use the beach.

Near as I have been able to determine, back in 1641-47, the colonial powers in Massachusetts passed laws to encourage coastal development.  These laws generally entitled beachfront landowners to own the property to the mean low tide line rather than the mean high tide line. This effectively blocked public passage along privately owned beaches (with some specific exceptions). Today, 370+ years later, many beaches are a confused patchwork of private and public land between high and low tide lines (the intertidal "wet sand" areas). In some places, the landowners post signs and stand guard and chase and/or yell at folks who try to walk through.  In other places, the landowners welcome the public walking through. It is, in a nutshell, a confusing mess. Emotions run hot on both sides of the issue. If someone yells at you to "get off my beach," they might just have every legal right to do so.  Of course, they might be wrong also - it's very confusing to me. I tread lightly and carefully.

Some beaches are accessible by private staircases that sometimes are severely damaged during winter storms. These staircases are built and maintained by private funds - and it is not cheap to have a staircase.

Sometimes access is by way of a steep ramp - again, not cheap to build or maintain.

Sometimes there is a secret path known only to and used exclusively by locals.......

........that opens up almost down at sea level except for maybe a short scramble on the rocks.

And sometimes it's best to just sit on the bluff and stare out to sea - from your own private bench on your own private lot. 

Private beaches get a lot of folks agitated but, maintaining and accessing beaches is costly.  It's expensive to build and maintain staircases, erosion of the bluffs often requires earth-moving equipment to perform repairs, big granite blocks are used to prevent erosion and stabilize soil and they are heavy and expensive to move into place. There are no parking areas available for non-residents, there is no provision for trash collection nor are there any restroom facilities. 

The public-private beach debate will go on - to me it is not as simple a prospect as some would believe. It's a nice idea that the beaches are a national resource open to everyone but it's truly more complicated than that.

Disclaimer:  I am neither an attorney nor a beach expert.  I am just a regular citizen trying to figure out the rules of the game and where I can go and where I can't. If I want to avoid the aggravation, I can simply go to a Town, City, State, or National Park beach and pay the daily fee.  Like the saying goes, "there is no free lunch......."


  1. Hi Joe,

    I just stumbled upon your blog while searching retirement blogs to see what's out there. I'm in the process of creating my own blog in retirement. I enjoy your photography and writing immensely. Eventually I'll be posting some of my own photography, but for now I'm just setting up and writing a few posts to populate it before really promoting it.

  2. Cheryl, Thanks for your comment. Blogging has been/is a great retirement activity for me - good luck to you.