Another Blocked Beach on East End

Blocked Beaches

I’m not sure what’s going on over on the East End, but something’s definitely been brewing over there lately.

As you probably recall, there’s been some major drama over at Hansen Bay beach over the past two months. The land owner, Mr. Ashton, blocked off beach access from the public by installing fencing and barbed wire. Well officials visited the property a few days after our first story ran and the owner removed the fencing and barbed wire … temporarily. We’ll get back to that in a bit.

So now it turns out that a second area that the public has used to access the beach is blocked on the East End. The property is at the end of Route 10 on your right-hand side (if driving East) just before the dumpsters. See for yourself…

Before the fencing:

Image taken in March 2014
Image taken in March 2014

After the fencing:

Image taken in May 2014
Image taken in May 2014

According to property records, the land is owned by the Sullivan family. And from what we’ve been told, the Sullivans have decided that they no longer want to allow people use this area as a right of way to get to the beach. (Click here to see how you can look up St. John property records online.)

Now back to the Hansen Bay issue…

We were so excited to drive by the beach a few weeks back and see that the barbed wire and fencing had been removed. Well it turns out that some of this has since reappeared and that people are being told to keep off the beach. Here are a few recent comments from our readers:

Bruce, Posted April 30:

“We are very close to Hansen Bay and pass it twice a day. Whoever has been “privatizing” the bay has re-fortified the wire and plastic fencing and added a picnic table. The “No Trespassing ” signs are back up and it is a complete eyesore. This is not someone’s “private kitchen” as the post above suggests, so you can’t compare them. The person who claims ownership should publicly post a copy of the documents of ownership.”

Karen, Posted May 1:

“We saw the same thing as above poster this past Tuesday. The beach is an eye sore. There was scrap metal and garbage on the beach (probably intentional to keep people away) in addition to the picnic table. There are cots set up in the structure. We thought about snorkeling anyway, but decided against it. We heard from a local that they believe it is a squatter on the land.”

Emilio, Posted May 18:

“Again….The PUBLIC ACCESS to the Hansen Bay Beach has been blocked. Check it out. I asked politely if I could still use the beach and was told only by boat access.”

Just for the record my loyal NOSJ readers, all beaches on St. John are public. How you access them is a different story … clearly.

10 thoughts on “Another Blocked Beach on East End”

  1. My husband and I were at Vi’s beach on Fri. May 9th. Vi unlocked the gate for us and we were the only 2 people on the beach for the entire day. Didn’t see any extra tables just the normal lounge chairs. It was an absolutely fabulous day.

  2. I don’t know what these folks are thinking but they should have their attorney’s check out “The Coastal Zone Management act of 1972”, it is the latest iteration of one of the oldest laws in the US (the US bulkhead act). What they are doing in blocking beach access may not be consistent with US law.

  3. I was there for a few hours yesterday. Anyone wanting to use the beach was welcome. Apparently, it comes down to a property line dispute between Vie and a distant cousin. The distant cousin appears to he winning. Vie is said to be keeping her half, and the distant cousin will take her half- or whatever the percentages happen to be… They were talking about plans for Sunday fish fries, small bar, grill, small sunfish sail rentals and paddle boarding, etc.; also a small campground. This was all being discussed on the beach yesterday by the distant cousin/owner and the folks who were there visiting. Just hear say, but that’s the information I was hearing. Personally, if it’s true, I don’t think it’s a terrible idea. And again, all who stopped and inquired, were allowed to park and use the beach for free. This I witnessed firsthand. Time will tell I guess.

  4. This is what happens when authorities ignore problems. Once someone gets away with blocking access to land that is “claimed” but not legally recognized as owned, it emboldens others to push the limits. These people could not sell this land as they probably have no legal title. Look now for even more of this kind of thing outside the National Park boundaries. St. John seems to be a cluster when it comes to land ownership. There was also a dispute between the “owners” and builders of the new service station. I have also had problems at Gibney before and have seen others complain about the ability to set up there without hassle. If the problem is not addressed, every beach outside the park will be off limits.

    • David: Then address it. Don’t wait for local officials to get around to it. God knows where their interests are anyway. Organize a local cooperative of land use interested persons and get a lawyer. Don’t bother with the local officials. Deal with it in court. Believe me after you have raked a few of these folks over the coals they will be happy to be land owners and not beach owners.

  5. The Open Shorelines Act is very clear about where the “public access” is in the USVI. We as St Johnians, as well as our guests, are fortunate to have our best beaches publicly available through the VINP. It seems petty to lament the fact you don’t get to trespass across private property to access those shorelines that are not within the VINP? I could understand a little angst if there was a shortage of public beaches on island, but geesh – THIS IS ST JOHN! Here’s an idea – be grateful for what we do have and stop feeling entitled to that we don’t.

    • Mr. Parker: “The Coastal Zone Management act of 1972″ is a federal law of considerable weight. It supersedes any local laws on beach access. Anyone arrested for trespassing, can literally make a federal case out of it. It takes about $50,000.00 to file in a federal court and if they win, the looser pays the court costs as well as damages. I know it sounds counter intuitive, but a private land owner does NOT have absolute control of their property when it comes to an adjoining beach and access to it. Don’t take my word for it. Get on Lexis/Nexis and do a search on the above mentioned act and the case law involved. You will be shocked to find out you have legal exposure you didn’t think you did.

      • Gerald – I did as you suggested and read through the Coastal Zone Management Act. I’m not seeing anything regarding beach access through private property. As this is an issue of interest to me I’m hoping you can point me toward the section I should re-read.

        There is definitely relevant language in the Public Trust Doctrine, but if there is additional or different language in the Coastal Zone Management Act I’d like to be able to compare/contrast.

  6. So, part of the problem on East End is a dog owner with – no one knows exactly how many, but best estimates are anywhere between 18 and 23 dogs. The dogs bark incessently day and night, but said dog ower had been bringing his dogs down to the beaches where they not only barked, but the owner did not clean up after them – think about the mess and smell 20 dogs could make day after day. The dog owner spent his time moving rocks into piles and other pass times that defaced the natural feel and look of the beaches. He did not respond to any reasonable talks or warnings. This is only a part of the problems this one home owner has caused on East end. Life has changed and some people have left because of him. The people near the beaches got sick and tired of this, and the result were the fences at the beaches. There are some land rights ownership things going on, too. No authorities have responded or taken any action against complaints about the disturbances caused by these dogs.

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