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Shoreline Master Programs

Public access policies and regulations

The Shoreline Management Act  [RCW 90.58.100(2)(b)] requires SMPs to provide for public access to publicly-owned shorelines. Public access to public shorelines is also a preferred use on shorelines of statewide significance owned by the public [RCW 90.58.020(5)].

The most common type of public access to the shoreline is physical access, such as that provided by a trail, boat ramp, or shared parking stalls for shoreline visitors. Physical access may be implemented through dedication of land or easements, cooperative agreements, or fee simple acquisition. Shoreline access can also be visual, such as views from an overpass, breezeways between buildings or views of prominent shoreline trees. Some jurisdictions also consider "cultural access" to interpretive, educational or historical aspects of the shoreline. Areas that have the potential for providing more than one form of public access, such as an historical site, might be ranked as high priority for acquisition or protection.

During the comprehensive shoreline analysis, local governments should identify existing physical, visual and cultural access to a jurisdiction's shorelines, and identify opportunities for enhancing access. Existing policies and plans related to public access should be summarized.

Local examples

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