Accessing the Virginia Coast

Accessing the Virginia Coast is a self-help resource for Virginia people.

This website contains information to help waterfront users, coastal communities, and land owners address issues related to coastal access. The intent of this website is to offer specific tools that address specific needs.

About the Project

Legal and Policy Tools for Coastal Access: Project Background
In March 2007, partners from Maine Sea Grant, Maine Coastal Program, The Center for Law and Innovation of University of Maine School of Law, and Island Institute received a grant from the National Sea Grant Law Center. These funds were granted to conduct research on legal and policy tools for coastal access in Maine then to translate these findings into outreach approaches that would enable coastal property owners, public interest entities, and recreational users to locally address their coastal access issues. This Web site has been designed after the Maine project and adapted to Virginia-specific issues and uses.

Accessing the Coast of Virginia: Issue Background

A tide of demographic and economic change is moving through Virginia’s coastal towns, harbors, and communities.

The 2007 Virgina Outdoors Plan (VOP), the state's official document regarding land conservation, outdoor recration and open space planning, reports that the two highest needs expressed by Virginians were additional public access to Virginia waters and trails for walking and bicycling. Only 1% of Virginia’s shoreline is publicly owned and available for public coastal access, leaving 99% as privately owned and therefore at risk of being sold and lost forever.

Most of Virginia’s working waterfront infrastructure (land that provides access to coastal waters for persons engage in water-dependent marine-related businesses) is privately owned and therefore vulnerable to conversion to another use if sold on the open market.

Escalating coastal real estate values are putting coastal property beyond the reach of working families who depend on the water for a living. Access points disappear as changing land use eclipses traditional uses of the coast.

Communities, waterfront users, and landowners are all affected by the decline in coastal access to Virginia’s shores. Beach visitors lose their favorite spots and waterfront landowners fear liability, crowding, and inappropriate use if they let the public use their land. The list of challenges is long and this Web site has been designed to provide information and tools to Virginia communities to facilitate their ability to locally address coastal access issues, possibility reducing the need for litigation.


This site is designed to help users understand how the law might apply to their needs. This site does NOT provide legal advice, which is the application of law to someone's specific circumstances. We recommend you consult a lawyer if you want professional assurance that our information, and your interpretation of it, is appropriate to your particular situation.

With support from the National Sea Grant Law Center, partners from Maine Sea Grant, Maine Coastal Program, The Center for Law and Innovation of University of Maine School of Law, and Island Institute developed the prototype for the derivate site you are now using. The prototype has been translated by Virginia Sea Grant, Virginia Institute of Marine Science Marine Advisory Services, and the Middle Peninsula Chesapeake Bay Public Access Authority to provide content relevant to audiences in the Commonwealth of Virginia. Maine Sea Grant owns the copyright to the prototype site; the adaptations/derivations made here are owned by VIMS Marine Advisory Services and the Virginia Sea Grant program. Neither Maine Sea Grant nor its collaborators are responsible for the content of this derivative site, including the accuracy of any of the legal information contained in this derivative site.