Over the past few decades, battles between beachgoers and home owners have migrated to the courts — and in so doing removed them from localities' oversight and autonomy. And more and more, the suits are drawing lines in the sand between neighbors and communities. Sea-level rise and climate change could intensify this conflict.
"These suits rip communities apart," says Adam Steinman, an attorney who has argued beach access cases at Maine's top court. "People who've known each other for 40 years are no longer talking. ... It's painful and expensive, and it doesn't always resolve the issue. You have to fight beach by beach and use by use. It's an inefficient use of judicial, municipal, and taxpayer resources."