DUCK, N.C. (WAVY) — A surfer had a big win for public beach access in Duck, North Carolina, after a judge made a ruling recently.
Duck residents and local business owners Bob and Tanya Hovey have surfed the waves on the Outer Banks for years.
To get to the water, they used access points like the one on Seabreeze Drive. The access point runs in between two oceanfront homes. A few years ago, a “no-trespassing” sign appeared.
“As Duck became more of an upscale community, I think it really had an appeal for them to perceive themselves as a private beach community,” Bob Hovey said.
On the town’s website and official brochures, it says there are no public beach access points in Duck.
Bob Hovey says that’s not true. He argues accesses at the end of state roads — like the one on Seabreeze Drive — are legally public.
“I’ve done the research, I’ve talked to attorneys and we’ve been through some core processes and I was convinced that it was public and I was going to use it,” said Bob Hovey.
In response to Hovey’s beach use, frustrated residents in the Sand Dollar Shores neighborhood called the cops. Last May, Bob Hovey was arrested while trying to use the access and charged with trespassing.
That’s when he and his wife Tanya Hovey filed a lawsuit against the Sand Dollar Shores Homeowners Association.
“The ways the law is written is once it’s dedicated to the public, you can’t ‘undedicate’ it to the public,” Bob Hovey explained.
A Camden County Superior Court judge agreed, recently ruling in the Hoveys’ favor.
“It was like a billion bricks lifted off my back,” said Tanya Hovey. “It felt wonderful, almost surreal.”
This week the district attorney dropped the trespassing charges against Bob Hovey.
“Having the community behind me really made this thing a whole lot easier,” said Bob Hovey. “I don’t think I could have done it without the support.”
The private beach access sign is still up at the end of Seabreeze Drive and the judge’s ruling is expected to be appealed.
The fight is likely for public access is likely not over.