State of the Beach/State Reports/LA/Beach Access

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Louisiana Ratings
Indicator Type Information Status
Beach Access12
Water Quality74
Beach Erosion7-
Erosion Response-2
Beach Fill6-
Shoreline Structures6 3
Beach Ecology1-
Surfing Areas24
Coastal Development{{{19}}}{{{20}}}
Sea Level Rise{{{21}}}{{{22}}}


A nice summary of the applicability of the Public Trust Doctrine to coastal access policies in Louisiana can be found here.

Also informative is this paper, which is titled Public Access to Louisiana Beaches Following Publicly Funded Restoration Projects: The Reclamation of Fourchon Beach.

Section 309 programmatic objectives for public access are:

  1. Improve public access through regulatory, statutory, and legal systems.
  2. Acquire, improve, and maintain public access sites to meet current and future demand through the use of innovative funding and acquisition techniques.
  3. Develop or enhance a Coastal Public Access Management Plan which takes into account the provision of public access to all users of coastal areas of recreational, historical, aesthetic, ecological, and cultural value.
  4. Minimize potential adverse impacts of public access on coastal resources and private property rights through appropriate protection measures.

LDNR/CMD is the lead agency for the State of Louisiana’s coastal management program. In FY 05, LDNR/CMD staff submitted four priority projects to potentially be acquired using Coastal and Estuarine Land Conservation Program funds. CELCP was established to protect coastal and estuarine lands considered important for their ecological, conservation, recreational, historical or aesthetic value. The program provides funding for projects that ensure conservation of these areas for the benefit of future generations, and that can be effectively managed and protected. LDNR/CMD staff is currently developing the CELC Plan.

Site Inventory

The percentage of coastal lands in Louisiana that are publicly owned is unknown.

According to a study by Pogue and Lee (1999) there were 22 public coastal access sites in Louisiana. However, the Assessment and Strategy indicates "not available" regarding the number of beach/shoreline access sites, along with 257 recreational boat access sites. The number of State or locally designated perpendicular rights-of-way is listed as "3 and multiple on Grand Isle."

The Assessment and Strategy 2011-2016 states:

"Louisiana has long been referred to as a Sportsman’s Paradise. Louisiana’s coastal zone provides a variety of recreational opportunities and amenities to residents and tourists alike. Louisiana’s vast landscape, from the Gulf of Mexico, to the herbaceous wetlands, to the forested wetlands, and the upland and plains in the inland areas, provides the opportunity for outdoor activity such as hiking, biking, swimming, fishing, boating, camping, hunting, birding, and picnicking.
The major providers of opportunities for public recreation in Louisiana are parish and local governments, the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (LDWF); the Louisiana Office of Forestry; the Louisiana Department of Culture, Recreation and Tourism; Sabine River Authority; the United States Forest Service; the United States Army Corps of Engineers (USACE); the National Park Service; and the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS). Coastal Louisiana has 17 Wildlife Management Areas and Wildlife Refuges, seven National Wildlife Refuges, seven State Parks, and one National Park providing public access to recreational and cultural resources for locals and tourists.
A major problem which continues to plague recreational opportunity and facilities providers and users is the lack of available public access. Public access to beaches and recreational areas situated on the Gulf of Mexico currently comprise less than one percent of the entire Louisiana coastline. There are several aspects of the term “access”. This issue will be addressed relative to access and use of state owned navigable waterways, the existence of public recreational areas, and access to the beach. The most pressing need is the lack of public recreational areas situated on waterways and the coastal beach areas that already have road access. In many areas, people use the highway R-O-W to park, fish, crab, etc. Most of these would logically need to be local or state government sponsored and maintained parks, recreational areas, piers, campgrounds, and similar facilities. For those citizens that do not have a boat, access to recreation is more limited.
Louisiana’s 2009-2013 Statewide Comprehensive Outdoor Recreation Plan (SCORP) has been prepared to help guide the development of the state’s outdoor recreation resources for the next 5 years. The SCORP’s purpose is to identify the most significant recreational issues and needs of the state."

The Draft Assessment and Strategy also reported:

"Due to Louisiana’s unique marsh geological shoreline and lack of beaches, public access to these lands is difficult to acquire. Also, much of Louisiana’s coast is privately owned making access limited by access agreements."
"Several different state agencies have responsibility and jurisdiction for developing public recreational sites and opportunity in Louisiana. To coordinate these activities being undertaken by each of these agencies is a daunting task and would require a significant effort that OCM does not feel is justified for this low priority category. Other state agencies’ websites would include the Louisiana Oil Spill Coordinator's Office and the Department of Health and Hospitals."
"The State of Louisiana does not publish a Public Access Guide or keep a website listing the public access locations across the state or LCZ. The Louisiana Department of Culture, Recreation, and Tourism maintains the majority of information regarding recreational areas throughout the state. The agency produces numerous leaflets and other hardcopy materials as well as maintaining an electronic web site for information."
"Due to Louisiana’s unique marsh geological shoreline, lack of beaches, and lack of public access infrastructure such as roads, public access to these lands is sometimes difficult to acquire. Also, much of Louisiana’s coast is privately owned making access limited by access agreements. Louisiana feels there are several more relevant coastal related challenges that require more immediate attention and the commitment of state resources towards. Therefore OCM believes this issue to be addressed more appropriately at the local level. OCM will offer local entities any assistance that we can to further such endeavors."

The Website for Louisiana State Parks (within the CRT Website mentioned above) has information and maps for all state parks. For instance, here is information on Grand Isle State Park. There is also now an official Louisiana State Parks and Historic Sites Guide app.

Elmer's Island is the state's newest wildlife refuge and public beach access area, located on the shores of the Gulf of Mexico across Caminada Pass from Grand Isle in Jefferson Parish. The island has been untouched for a decade, and since its opening over the July 4 weekend in 2009 has proved enormously popular for beachgoing because it's the only public beach with vehicle access in the state. The public can enter Elmer's Island Wildlife Refuge via an access road connecting La Hwy. 1 to the refuge beach area.

Beach Attendance Records

Beach attendance information for Louisiana is not readily available.

Economic Evaluation of Beaches

Eco-tourism wetland related activities contribute $220 million annually to the state’s economy (Coreil 1994). The Office of State Parks (2003) has stated their concern about the carrying capacity of some of the state’s public recreation and natural areas allowing public access while protecting the environment.

Louisiana's overall state tourism and general economy were severely impacted by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005 and by the Gulf oil well blowout in 2010. However, their 2006 Annual Report referenced a $9.9 billion tourist industry, employing 178,000 workers (pre Hurricanes). Louisiana Office of Tourism Research Section Latest Documents and Reports.

In 2003, the Gulf of Mexico’s ocean economy employed more than 562,000 people, paid wages of more than $13.2 billion, and contributed over $32 billion to the region’s gross state product.[1] Tourism and recreation comprised 71 percent of the employment in the Gulf region’s 2003 ocean economy.[2]

The above statistics are from a report by NRDC that summarizes the results of several surveys and evaluations that attempt to quantify the positive economic impact of beach and ocean recreation, recreational and commercial fishing, and ecosystems value from the Gulf of Mexico's ocean resources.

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.

Perception of Supply and Demand

The Draft Assessment and Strategy reports:

Louisiana’s outdoor recreation suppliers are faced with dwindling funds. Federal and state reduction in funds has hampered the ability for normal everyday operations, maintenance, and repair of recreational facilities and programs. To add to this already declining source of funding for the State for recreational and public access, funding from the federal government through the Land and Water Conservation Fund and the Federal Highway Administration to fund acquisition and development of public outdoor recreation areas and facilities and the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development’s Transportation Enhancement Program respectively have been cut drastically (S. Meek, pers. commun. 2005, S. Murray, person. commun. 2005).

Pursuant to La. Rev. Stat. 49:214.21 et seq. (Louisiana Coastal Wetlands Conservation and Restoration Program) LDNR/CMD is charged with implementing the LCRP in order to protect, develop, and where feasible, restore or enhance resources of the LCZ. LDNR/CMD does not receive state funds for public access or recreation programs. The cutback in Section 306 funding has resulted in insufficient federal funding to allow CMD to conduct its core functions and still provide Section 306A grants. Wetland loss is the paramount responsibility of LDNR/CMD, and as a result fees and federal grants are applied to the operation and maintenance of programs which support this initiative.

In the past, construction, operation, and maintenance of public access locations has not been a primary charge of LDNR/CMD as explained above. The State of Louisiana has assigned that responsibility to agencies such as Louisiana Department of Culture, Recreation, and Tourism and LDWF. Through the LCRP all public and private developments within the LCZ go through a permitting process, in order to ensure that projects minimize any negative impacts to coastal wetlands. Various types of public access such as boardwalks, trails, and parks are eligible for funding through 306A of the Coastal Zone Management Act, and CMD will make 306A grants available if, and when, adequate CZMA funding is made available for that purpose. LDNR/CMD recognizes the need for public access within the LCZ and, as a result, remains open to working with other programs or agencies involved with public access as it relates to wetland areas in the LCZ in the future.

Public Education Program

The goal of the Louisiana Outdoors Outreach Program is to engage the students in hands-on activities, which increase environmental awareness and encourage local stewardship.


  1. Colgan, Charles. 2008. “The Ocean Economy of the Gulf of Mexico in National Perspective” in The Changing Coastal and Ocean Economics of the Gulf of Mexico. Edited by Judith Kildow, Charles Colgan, and Linwood Pendleton, University of Texas Press. (pp. 2, 3). Please note that this analysis relied on 2003 data from the National Ocean Economics Program ( The author estimated the ocean economy of Florida by using only those counties adjacent to the Gulf of Mexico, from Monroe County north; Florida counties on the Atlantic coast were excluded.
  2. Colgan, Charles. 2008. “The Ocean Economy of the Gulf of Mexico in National Perspective” in The Changing Coastal and Ocean Economics of the Gulf of Mexico. Edited by Judith Kildow, Charles Colgan, and Linwood Pendleton, University of Texas Press. (pp. 2, 3). Please note that this analysis relied on 2003 data from the National Ocean Economics Program ( The author estimated the ocean economy of Florida by using only those counties adjacent to the Gulf of Mexico, from Monroe County north; Florida counties on the Atlantic coast were excluded.

State of the Beach Report: Louisiana
Louisiana Home Beach Description Beach Access Water Quality Beach Erosion Erosion Response Beach Fill Shoreline Structures Beach Ecology Surfing Areas Website
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