News & Insights

Can Texas Prevent Residents From Accessing A Public Beach

On October 11, 2021, Community group SaveRGV (“SaveRGV”) sued the Texas General Land Office, Texas Land Commissioner George P. Bush and Cameron County (“Texas”) for allegedly violating the state constitution. SaveRGV alleges that, by frequently and unpredictably closing a nearby beach for SpaceX to launch rockets at a nearby facility, Texas is violating its constitution. SaveRGV, v. Texas General Land Office et al., 2021-DCL-05887.

The Texas Open Beaches Act, codified in 1959, guarantees the public’s right to free and unrestricted access to public beaches along the Gulf Coast.  According to SaveRGV, the Texas constitution was amended in 2009 to acknowledge the constitutional right to beach access.  However, in 2013, portions of the Texas Open Beaches Act were amended to allow public beaches to be closed for “for space flight activities.”

Members of SaveRGV are concerned about access to Boca Chica Beach.  As a result of the amendment to the Texas Open Beaches Act, there have been numerous closures of Boca Chica Beach and the only road that leads to the beach, State Highway 4. According to SaveRGV, “”Boca Chica Beach is one of the few, undeveloped, free public beaches in the area, and the frequent denial of access to this Beach has impacted SaveRGV’s members’ ability to use and enjoy this unique public beach.”

The group alleges that local regulations passed after the amendments to the Texas Open Beaches Act do not permit public beaches to be closed more than 450 hours per year.  According to SaveRGV, this beach has already been closed in excess of 500 hours in 2021, but there is no official record that tracks the hours of closure.

SaveRGV board member, Jim Chapmam, does not think it is rocket science. “The Texas Constitution is crystal clear.  In Texas, access to public beaches cannot be restricted. No one, not even the legislature can take that right away.”  SaveRGV requests the Court to declare that closing public beaches for space flights is unconstitutional.  They also ask the Court to prevent any further closures of Boca Chica Beach and State Highway 4.