RI Enters Misquamicut Public Access Dispute

Rhode Island Attorney General Peter F. Kilmartin has brought an action in Superior Court seeking to enforce the public’s right to enjoy a nearly 2-mile section of the Misquamicut beachfront east of the State Beach.

In particular, the action seeks to enjoin specific beachfront lot owners from interfering with the public’s right to use this dry sand area, alleging that this strand was dedicated to the public by a recorded 1909 plat. (A plat is a real estate map used to create a subdivision.)

“Unfortunately, efforts by the Town of Westerly to settle this matter amicably with the defendants were not possible,” said Attorney General Kilmartin. “This is an issue that needs to be addressed once and for all to determine important property rights. It is my strong belief that no one is entitled to block access to Rhode Island’s beaches, and I will fight to protect these valuable resources for the citizens of both Westerly and all of Rhode Island.”

The original 1909 plat subdivided nearly 2 miles of Misquamicut shorefront south of Atlantic Avenue between what is now the State Beach and the Weekapaug Breachway. The action charges that the 1909 plat created both the current beachfront lots and a distinct beach strip between those lots and the ocean. It also created several rights-of-way connecting to that beach.

According to the Attorney General, the 1909 plat shows that these beachfront lots only extend to the base of the dunes as they existed in 1909. The assertion is that the oceanfront lying below the dunes was not included in the private lots; that this strip was set aside for the people.

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