Beachgoers in one Outer Banks town could be arrested for walking to public beaches

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A town on North Carolina’s Outer Banks is warning beachgoers that trying to walk to its public beaches could get you arrested for trespassing.

The town of Duck said in a news release that Robert Hovey was arrested last week when he tried to reach the beach through land owned by a homeowners association.

“Yesterday, I believe I became the first person in the history of Duck to get arrested for going to the beach,” Hovey posted on Facebook.

Town officials, who announced Hovey’s arrest Wednesday in a news release, said the charge and arrest were the culmination of a long-standing dispute between Hovey, who owns a local business that rents outdoor equipment, and property owners of the Sand Dollar Shores subdivision despite repeated attempts for a peaceful solution.

Although officials say Duck doesn’t restrict a person’s use of the public beach, it doesn’t own or maintain any beach access locations.

“Because the accesses are privately owned and maintained, the Town cannot grant permission for their use and unauthorized use could be deemed trespass as it would with any other private property,” the news release said.

The Charlotte Observer reports that opponents of the policy took to the town’s Facebook page, with some accusing leaders of catering to affluent summer cottage renters at the expense of locals.

“The beach is public, yet the access to it isn’t. … How much common sense is in this?” wrote Nena Woo. “I will not be coming to Duck! I will spread the word about how ignorant and unwelcoming the people are there! No Thank you!”

A few of the 400 people who commented on the policy supported Hovey’s arrest.

“The walkways are NOT public,” wrote Cindy McLaughlin on Facebook. “They are paid for and maintained by the individual property owners and HOAs. The southern beaches in Nags Head, Kill Devil Hills, etc., have public beach access. Go there! You won’t be hassled.”

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