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ECU studies beach access conflicts

(June 7, 1994)   —   Beach visitors in North Carolina are familiar with the problems of finding access to the surf on busy weekends and the resulting conflicts between property owners and those looking for a little fun in the sun has prompted a study by two East Carolina University scientists.
Drs. David C. Griffith and Jeffrey C. Johnson of the ECU Institute for Coastal and Marine Resources are conducting a study of how beach property owners and visitors view the state’s coastal resources. The researchers hope to develop information to help coastal managers assess property zoning and public access.
In recent years, the once well-worn paths across the dunes from the highway have been replaced by private drives, cottages and condominiums. As a result, a trip to the coast on a busy weekend may end in frustration and even anger for those who don’t arrive early at the public parking areas or don’t have access to private beach property.
The social scientists are conducting interviews with coastal residents and visitors to develop an analysis of the problems and to offer solutions for resolving conflicts.
They say real estate development, tourism and the construction of marinas and other commercial leisure use facilities have increased dramatically in the last 15 years. These developments, they say, increase the prospects for further conflict and create the need for legal solutions to opposing claims over these resources.
The study, sponsored by the University of North Carolina Sea Grant Program, is similar to another research project by the two scientists. Griffith and Johnson are also studying the conflicts that arrise between recreational and commercial fishermen.