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 Connecticut Coastal Access GuideExplore the Connecticut Shore 
Connecticut’s Shore - The People’s ResourceGo Back
Connecticut's shore belongs to the people--not just in terms of our environmental and cultural heritage, but in a specific legal sense as well. Under the common law public trust doctrine, a body of law dating back to Roman times, all coastal states as sovereigns hold the submerged lands and waters waterward of the mean high water line in trust for the public. In Connecticut, a line of state Supreme Court cases dating back to the earliest days of the State confirms that private property generally ends at the mean high water line (the line on the shore established by the average of all high tides) and that the state holds title as trustee to the lands waterward of mean high water, for the use and benefit of the public.
On the ground, the mean high water line is often associated with a prominent wrack line, debris line, or water mark. In general, if an area is regularly wet by the tides, you are probably safe to assume that it is in the public trust and legally open to pedestrian passage. The public trust area is also sometimes referred to as tidelands and is defined as "public beach" by the Connecticut Coastal Management Act, C.G.S. 22a-93(6). According to Connecticut caselaw, the general public may freely use the public trust lands and waters, whether they are beach, rocky shore, or open water, for traditional public trust uses such as fishing, shellfishing, boating, sunbathing, or simply walking along the beach. A waterfront owner may not exclude the public from lawful uses of the public trust area, just as an upland owner cannot exclude the public from driving or walking on the street in front of his or her house. Responsibly enjoy your public trust right to access Connecticut’s shore-the people’s resource.
Public Access Code of Conduct
Visitors to public access areas should exercise their rights responsibly, without disturbing neighboring property owners or others using the public shore. Don’t litter, trample dune or tidal wetland vegetation, or trespass on private property, including docks, bulkheads and seawalls. Do obey fishing, shellfishing and local restrictions on uses of the sites included in this guide. Please remember that the sites listed in this guide are open from dawn to dusk, unless otherwise specified. By using good manners and common sense, visitors can encourage waterfront property owners to welcome their neighbors to the public shore that we all share.
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