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Senator Wants to Ensure Land Access to Beaches

Aug. 27, 2004 – For Virgin Islanders looking for a good swim, beach options are becoming slimmer.
With investors purchasing property along the shoreline and waterfront property owners erecting fences, public access to beaches by land is becoming more restricted.
To address the problem, Sen. Adlah "Foncie" Donastorg is looking into ways of strengthening the territory's Open Shoreline Act. The law guarantees the public access to the islands' beaches.
But the law "is too vague," Donastorg said in a recent interview.
He said the problem is that the act does not require beachfront property owners to provide land access to the beaches. A property owner can make the argument that residents can access a beach by water, he added.
In legislation that he is proposing, Donastorg wants to make mandatory land access to the shore a part of the act. He said he has asked the advice of the Legislature's legal counsel, Yvonne Tharpes, on how best to strengthen the act, but she has yet to respond. Tharpes has been on vacation.
Donastorg said he sees walkways as the solution. Property owners and the government could work together to construct walkways on the borders of property that would give access to the beach. Residents would not encroach on an owner's property, he said, because "you don't usually build to the edge" of a piece of land.
"The shoreline itself belongs to the people of the Virgin Islands," Donastorg said. "But if you can't access the shoreline, how can it belong to you?"
Recent developments including the erecting of fences on the Sunsi and Lindqvist Beach properties and the proposed sale of land adjacent to Vessup Bay prompted the senator to work on the legislation.
"Ultimately the people should have a right to enjoy the pristine beauty of the Virgin Islands," Donastorg said. "To deprive them of that right is to violate the Open Shoreline Act."
On St. Thomas, land access to Sunsi, Lindqvist, Vessup, Santa Maria, Botany Bay, Little Magens and Platform Beaches is threatened due to private development.

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