Words of Warning from My Grandfather

Big shout out to my mom, who has a letter to the editor in the New York Times today:

To the Editor:

Re “We Need to Retreat From the Beach,” by Orrin H. Pilkey (Op-Ed, Nov. 15):

My father, who retired in 1975, was chief of the North Atlantic Division of the Army Corps of Engineers. More than 40 years ago, he said to me that nobody should be allowed to own land on the coastline.

He thought that the beaches should be accessible to everyone and that it was dangerous to build by the water.

Hastings-on-Hudson, N.Y., Nov. 15, 2012

4 Responses to Words of Warning from My Grandfather

  1. Andreas Baumann November 30, 2012 at 7:36 am #

    Private ownership of beach-side land does not preclude public access: many Danish beaches are privately owned, but the public still has a legal right to access them for bathing purposes. In Sweden, almost part of nature (woods, beaches, fields, etc.) are included in the allemannsrättan, the “every man’s right”, and therefore are subject to public access.

  2. Chaz December 1, 2012 at 4:20 am #


    Does that mean the public are entitled to walk across private property (through yards and such) if there’s a beach on the other side? Are landowners prohibited from installing fences?

    This is a huge problem in the U.S.–beaches and lakes are nominally public but adjacent landowners block access to them.

    • GiT December 1, 2012 at 4:27 am #

      In the Nordic countries you’re even entitled to hike, swim, and even potentially camp on another’s property.

  3. Andreas Baumann December 1, 2012 at 3:17 pm #


    All parcels of lands are meant to be accessible by public roads, and indeed, if somebody served to obstruct that, their penalty would be up to 6 years of imprisonment (cf. the penalty for murder being 16 years).

    In Sweden, people are allowed to transverse any field not currently under pasture to access nature – just remember to close the gates, if the cows are grazing. The Danish (and Norwegian) legel situation isn’t quite as permissive, but generally, beaches, woods and fields are thought to belong to the public as much as to any private owner.