Truro is transitioning to in-person meetings, but remote access to all meetings continues. Go to truro-ma.gov and click on the meeting you want to watch for further instructions.
Thursday, July 15
- Energy Committee, 4:30 p.m.
Friday, July 16
- Finance Committee, 8 a.m.
- Board of Library Trustees, 11:30 a.m.
Tuesday, July 20
- Board of Health, 4:30 p.m.
Wednesday, July 21
- Planning Board, 5 p.m.
Thursday, July 22
- Climate Action Committee, 10:30 a.m.
- Housing Authority, 4:15 p.m.
Next time you take a stroll on the beach, you might need to pay more attention to signs that read “Private Property.”
Beachgoers and off-road vehicles (ORV) going on private beaches has been “a hot issue this year,” Truro Recreation and Beach Director Damion Clements said at the beach commission meeting July 9.
According to Town Manager Darrin Tangeman, the town has received just one complaint about trespassing on private beaches this year. That complaint, he wrote in an email, prompted a “review of applicable laws,” after which the town updated guidance to ORV sticker holders and placed signs marking the edge of public beaches.
On most bay beaches in Truro, town property extends only a few hundred feet in either direction, so the area where ORVs can drive is relatively small. In addition, two access points at Corn Hill and Beach Point are currently closed because of shorebird nesting.
During the meeting, beach commission member Tom Bow expressed confusion about the rules: “I mean, we all walk over private property [on the beach], we just don’t put our chairs there,” he said.
Because of a 17th-century law, owners of coastal property in Massachusetts also own the adjacent intertidal zone between the mean high-tide and low-tide lines. That means the public technically can’t access private beach areas without the owners’ consent.
The law includes exceptions to the rule: beachgoers have the right to “free fishing and fowling,” meaning you can walk on private beaches if you’re casting a line or looking for birds. Property owners are also not allowed to “hinder the passage of boats or other vessels in, or through any Sea, creeks, or coves.” (The odd word choice is because this was written when Massachusetts was a British colony.)
Swimming counts as the right to navigation and is permitted adjacent to private beaches, according to a blog post by law firm Pulgini & Norton. That is, as long as you’re only swimming, and not touching the bottom nor walking up onto dry land.
Fortunately for any wayward beach walkers, the rules are hard to enforce. “The town does not have the resources to enforce against trespass on private beaches,” Tangeman wrote, “and has suggested to private beach owners that they may hire their own enforcement staff if they so choose.” —Ben Glickman