State of the Beach/State Reports/BC/Beach Access

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Beach Access


There is a requirement for all near shore habitat development ventures to obtain approval from the provincial government prior to undergoing any construction. A special provision to enable access is found in the Land Title Act, whereby there is a requirement to dedicate a specified amount of public access to the water when waterfront land is being subdivided.

In British Columbia, the Ministry of Environment is responsible for administering aquatic crown lands. According to the Ministry website, “[The Ministry] recognizes the importance of public access to and passable along the foreshore…but these are not public rights, and they cannot be guaranteed in all cases”. Waterfront property improvements will likely not be authorized if they interfere with public access along the foreshore. Furthermore, consent must also be sought from any other waterfront property owners whose right of access may be infringed upon.

The province has been collecting coastal resource data in a systematic and synoptic manner since 1979. Resource information is collected using peer-reviewed provincial Resource Inventory Committee Standards which include standards for data management and analysis. The type of environmental resource information collected includes oceanographic, physiographic, and biological data. Examples of human-use information collected include data on fisheries, traditional knowledge, coastal tenures and land uses, as well as recreation and tourism use and capabilities. Coastal resource information is stored in the Coastal Resource Information Management System. This system is used to provide data and analyses for coastal resource management, conservation, protection and planning applications. The riparian right of access and the right to navigation enjoyed by waterfront property owners have the greatest impact on the Ministry’s administration of land. This right of access requires that the waterfront property owner be able to get to and from deep water in a navigable craft of reasonable size from every point along the foreshore directly in front of it.

Site Inventory

The Parks Canada website provides information on national and provincial parks throughout British Columbia. In British Columbia, there are over 100 parks and ecological reserves, which have marine and/or coastal components.

An important access issue on Vancouver Island is at Jordan River. Here is a Paddle out for public access in Jordan River, BC video.

There is a proposal by Ender Ilkay that calls for the phased development over 20 years of 257 tourist cabins, two recreation centres and six caretaker residences in the area near Jordan River. The project would sprawl over 33 hectares, bordering Crown land and parkland. Another 203 hectares would remain undeveloped. The land in question is part of a much larger tract of forest removed from the tree-farm licence in 2007 by the provincial government. Despite a report by the Auditor General criticizing the decision as not sufficiently considering the public’s interest, the move opened up 28,000 hectares of land for development. Shortly after, Western Forest Products began selling parcels. The Juan de Fuca Trail is a 47-kilometre wilderness hiking trail hugging Vancouver Island’s west coast. It stretches from China Beach near Jordan River, to Botanical Beach near Port Renfrew. The proposed development would run near a 17-km stretch of trail. More info.

Surfrider Foundation Vancouver Island Chapter has been working with other local community organizations to help protect The Point at Jordan River from development since 2008. They’ve held paddle outs to celebrate public access (see above) and attended community meetings to offer opinions on the impact of development. In October 2012, Surfrider held a surf gear swap to raise funds for the lands and invited CRD Parks Planners to attend and give a presentation on the proposed park. As of late December 2012, The Point at Jordan River and nearby lands are now officially a CRD park! The CRD will be hosting consultation sessions in early 2013 to hear from surfers, community members and other stakeholders about potential improvements to the lands. On January 14, 2013 Surfrider Vancouver Island presented the Capital Regional District with a cheque for almost $5,000 in support of the purchase of the parklands at Jordan River. While Surfrider’s donation may be small compared to the total purchase cost of $9.945 million, as the folks at the CRD said, “Every bit helps!”

Economic Evaluation of Beaches

The following information is from the United States, but much of it is still applicable.

NOAA's Office for Coastal Management (OCM) has written a discussion of the recreational value of beaches, in the context of beach fill projects. In 2009 OCM released Introduction to Economics for Coastal Managers, a basic introduction to economic ideas and methods that can be applied to coastal resource management. The economic concepts provided in this introduction are illustrated through several case studies. Other OCM/Digital Coast publications can be found here.

The following two websites provide information on the economic value of coasts and the ocean throughout the country.

The National Ocean Economics Program (NOEP) provides a full range of the most current economic and socio-economic information available on changes and trends along the U.S. coast and in coastal waters. You can download data on jobs and GDP associated with specific types of coastal activities for each coastal state. You also can download data on commercial fishing and landings. The NOEP made public their fully updated Non-Market Valuation website in September 2008. The largest database in the world of studies documenting the environmental and recreational values of ocean resources, the website now includes 1) an updated methodologies section, 2) frequently asked questions, 3) examples of how Non-Market valuation influences public policy, and 4) an expanded table summarizing valuation estimates from across the United States. In 2014 NOEP released an updated State of the U.S. Ocean and Coastal Economies - 2014, which points out that there is an imbalance between the economic importance of coasts and coastal oceans and the federal support for stewardship of these resources. According to the report, coastal states supply over 81 percent of American jobs and contribute $13 trillion to the economy, or 84 percent of GDP. More on this here. The National Ocean Economics Program previously released State of the U.S. Ocean and Coastal Economies - 2009, which presents time-series data compiled over the past 10 years that track economic activities, demographics, natural resource production, non-market values, and federal expenditures in the U.S. coastal zone on land and water. The report states that coastal states account for more than 80 percent of the U.S. economy. The most recent report released by NOEP is the State of the U.S. Ocean and Coastal Economies - 2016. The Center for the Blue Economy (CBE) at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey now houses the National Ocean Economics Program (NOEP).

The website of Restore America's Estuaries has a report The Economic and Market Value of Coasts and Estuaries: What's At Stake?. According to the report, U.S. coasts and estuaries that have been protected and managed in a sustainable way are worth billions. Beaches, coastal communities, ports, and fragile bays are economic engines that drive and support large sectors of the national economy. The report focuses on aspects of coasts and estuaries that are most dependent on ecologically healthy conditions. The authors also examined a growing body of research that reveals the economic consequences of environmental change in coastal and estuary ecosystems.

A report A Review and Summary of Human Use Mapping in the Marine and Coastal Zone was published in December 2010. This report was prepared by ERG for NOAA's Coastal Services Center. The report evaluated different methods and approaches to measure human uses of the coastal and marine environment. The uses were divided into 1) military and industrial uses, 2) consumptive uses (e.g., fishing) and 3) non-consumptive activities (e.g., swimming, surfing, kayaking).

The economic value of beaches can increase or decrease due to a number of factors, including beach width; the presence or absence of amenities such as parking, restrooms or lifeguard services; the suitability of the beach for activities such as surfing or swimming; and the presence or absence of pollution and beach litter. In June 2014 NOAA published an infographic on the high cost of marine debris based on the report Assessing the Economic Benefits of Reductions in Marine Debris: A Pilot Study of Beach Recreation in Orange County, California, which was prepared by Industrial Economics, Inc. for NOAA's Marine Debris Division. It found that having debris on the beach and good water quality are the leading factors in deciding which beach residents visit. Reducing marine debris by even 25 percent at beaches in and near Orange County, California, could save residents approximately $32 million during the summer by not having to travel long distances to other beaches. Beach characteristics were collected for 31 popular Southern California public beaches from San Onofre Beach to Zuma Beach. Orange County residents were also surveyed on their recreation habits, including how many day trips they took to the beach from June - August 2013, where they went, how much it cost them, and which beach characteristics are important to them. The results provided in an estimate if how much Orange County residents would potentially benefit, including how often they visit beaches and how much they would save in travel costs, over a summer season by reducing marine debris at some or all of these 31 beaches. The study focused on Orange County because of the number and variety of beaches, their importance to permanent residents, ease of access, and likelihood that marine debris would be present. Researchers believe that, given the results, the study could be modified for assessing similar coastal communities in the United States.

For additional general discussion of the economic impacts of beaches, please see the article Economic Impact of Beaches.

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