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Opinion of the Justices (Public Use of Coastal Beaches)
Supreme Court of New Hampshire
139 N.H. 82, 649 A.2d 604 (1994)
New Hampshire’s legislature considered passing a bill that would create a public easement across private land to access beaches. The bill would recognize that shorelands subject to the ebb and flow of the tide (intertidal lands) were held in public trust. The bill’s easement would allow the public to access the shorelands where the public had traditionally had access to the extent that an easement was created by public use. The easement would be restricted to coastal beaches or dry sand areas, defined as the portion of beach between the public trust shorelands and the border between the beach and high ground. The bill would allow any person to access the coastal beaches for recreational purposes. Additionally, in suits regarding public access to land, proof that a disputed area is a coastal beach would be prima facie evidence that an easement exists. The New Hampshire House of Representatives asked the state’s Supreme Court to issue an advisory opinion on whether the bill’s recognition of a public easement would be a taking of private property under New Hampshire’s constitution.
Rule of Law
Holding and Reasoning
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