Outer Banks residents debate how to access public beach with only private entrances

Posted at 2:07 PM, May 31, 2019
and last updated 2019-05-31 22:59:56-04

DUCK, N.C. - The Town of Duck is young, and because of that the administration is now trying to work out old kinks in the system.

The hottest topic lately is how to access the public beach.

The area of sand between the dune line and water line is public beach. It is part of a public trust, protected by the state. Here's the problem: All the accesses to the beach are privately owned.

Before the Town of Duck was incorporated, all that land was bought and developed. Now, the access points are technically private property. The homeowners, developments and other groups own and maintain them.

On Wednesday, resident Bob Hovey was arrested for trying to access the beach from an access point close to his house. As his home is not part of the Homeowners Association, which has an agreement with that access point, Hovey was charged with trespassing.

Friday, News 3 spoke to Hovey, who wants the town to step in and let residents express their concern over the lack of beach accesses to the public beach. He said things should go back to the way they were before the town was incorporated and allow certain access points to the public.

The town said this is not a huge issue as the vast majority of their homeowners and all rental homes pay into HOAs and other dues that grant them access to beach walkways; not to mention, many people access the beach through these points without anyone knowing or enforcing them coming and going.

Related: Kill Devil Hills opens first fully handicap accessible beach access

Town Manager Christopher Layton said only two subdivisions in the entire town are not included in this agreement, and usually the homeowner can make arrangements for beach access with the property owner without a problem.

Visitors acknowledge they cannot legally park on the streets where access points are, so if they do park in a public space and walk or bike to the access points, they still cannot technically get to the ocean and public property without trespassing on an access point.

The town said building a public access is not a quick fix as they would have to acquire land from a willing donor or seller, and so far there are none. The town cannot start maintaining the private access points as they are private property, owned by the properties near them or the HOAs.

They hope someone will consider working with them to make public access possible. In the meantime, they have posted FAQs to their website to help answer questions homeowners and visitors may have.

Hovey hopes he can speak in a public forum about this issue and has requested the town allow him to speak.

News 3 asked the town if they plan to address this at their next council meeting, and we are waiting for a response.