I live in a small Newport neighborhood that is blessed with a public beach access — a pedestrian-only access that is used by myself and many of my neighbors on a near daily basis. It has been used regularly by folks in our wider community for over 60 years.
Many of us locals bought our homes on or near this street because of the beach access. So imagine my surprise when I drove home on July 23 to find a bright red city sign newly alerting me to “No Beach Access” in my neighborhood. I immediately contacted the city and objected, and, to their credit, they immediately acknowledged the “mistake” and the sign came down within hours.
Later that afternoon, however, I was accosted by my newest set of neighbors (they recently had a lovely home built on the oceanfront side of my street). They harassed me for not supporting the new, no beach access sign. I explained that I objected to it because we do have a public beach access trail, and I strongly support this. The couple became livid. She yelled at me, “You're the only one in the neighborhood that feels that way!” He was going to call the police and report me for destroying government property — the sign. He mistakenly assumed I had removed it.
This same couple had recently circulated a petition for a dead end sign to be placed on NW Wade Way, to deter unnecessary vehicular traffic into our cul-de-sac — we have narrow streets and limited turn-around space. I had signed the petition because I thought signage would be helpful to drivers and neighbors alike. But I had not been asked about supporting a no beach access sign.
What irks me most is that the no beach access sign was clearly meant to deceive the wider public about the existence of a public beach access.
Everyone in this neighborhood knows about the public beach access. We would all know the sign was wrong and meant to really convey no beach access “wink wink” except for us. But the wider public would not know the sign was wrong and that it had only been put up to deter them from using the path. The assumption by this couple and any of their supporters — that I and every other neighbor on the street would go along with this deception and its intended exclusion — was arrogant and insulting.
Every homeowner on this street was made aware of the public beach access before they purchased their lot or home. Our neighborhood is not within a gated community. Over the past 60 years, there have been many attempts by self-interested property owners to vacate and/or buy the trail in order to enrich themselves and block the public from using it. It is truly unfortunate that a few of the residents continue to greedily scheme to limit the public's use of the public beach access that they themselves enjoy. You'd think that owning a house near the beach would be enough to satisfy a person.
I am grateful to the city for quickly acknowledging the error. It's a shame that our limited city resources had to be wasted on the effort to put the sign up, and then take it down. In my opinion, the people who requested and/or supported the no beach access sign should be ashamed of themselves, should admit who they are and offer a public apology for trying to deceive and exclude the larger community from using a valued public beach access.
Rose Jade is resident of Newport.