Texas Supreme Court limits Open Beaches Act

GALVESTON, Texas - The Texas Supreme Court placed private property rights ahead of the state's Open Beaches Act in a new ruling, which could impact which beaches Texans are and are not allowed on.

The Open Beaches Act states that a beach up to the vegetation line is state property and, therefore, open to the public.

The state had argued that the state's right to the land automatically shifts with the sands. The court disagreed.

In the past, under the Texas Open Beaches law, if a storm eroded the beach and pushed the vegetation line behind a building, that building became the property of the state, with no compensation to the owner.

But under a state supreme court ruling, that is no longer the law. In a 5 to 8 decision, the high court ruled that even after serious erosion, landowners still own the property in spite of the long-standing Texas Open Beaches Act.

"I think that's fair cause a heavily eroded area like ours, anything you have any kind of weather event your going to have a major impact. But if the beach isn't public, who keeps it up?" said Peggy Zahler of the Spanish Grant Beach homeowners board.

Local 2 has learned that when the Galveston park board meets later this week, part of the discussion expected is whether the board, a private entity, should continue cleaning beaches that could very well be private.

"I will find a way to get around that because that is not good for anyone for litter not to be picked up," Galveston Mayor Joe Jaworski said. "We're going to have public beaches in Galveston one way or another."

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