CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — A proposed law creating waves of controversy and triggering a local group to call for action.
The Surfrider Foundation believes Texas Senate Bill 434 is threatening their rights to beach access. According to the Texas General Land Office, the Texas Open Beaches act passed in 1959 and it protects public access to the 367 miles of Texas coastline along the Gulf of Mexico.
SB434 was filed on January 12, 2023. Republican Senator Mayes Middleton sponsored the bill.
If passed, it could change how a lawsuit is handled regarding beach access. If a person claims a private property owner or establishment is violating their right and they pursue litigation, the burden of proof would fall on the person making claims against an establishment.
Cliff Schlabach, the co-chairman of the Texas Coastal Bend Surfrider Foundation who is opposing the bill.
"Our major concern is, we're going to lose our beach access rights. Once they start to chip away at it and if one private owner should be successful in court, the rest of them are going to go, ah, yeah. We'd like to do that too." he said. "Every two years whenever the state legislators meet our Surfriders chapter, our members, and our supporters get nervous because it's a constant assault on the public's right to use our beaches. It has always been that way. There's people who would steal our beaches or way to the public and they would do it in a second if they can. And this is one of the ways they do it."
Schlabach and the Surfrider Foundation is calling for action, urging people to learn about the bill and reach out to their representatives.
"Senate Bill 434 should be a concern for all Texans and all beach users. Anyone that loves to come to the beach should be concerned about this bill." he said.
The group posted an action alert on its website. Clickhereto view it.
Schlabach said he contacted Representative Todd Hunter's Office, other senators, the Mayor of Corpus Christi, and the Texas General Land Office to address the groups concerns. He said, they said they are gathering information of the bill and are now aware of the concerns.
KRIS 6 News requested a comment from Senator Middleton, who has yet to respond to concerns.