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Barriers at the Beach

The commonwealth boasts about 1,400 miles of coastline, but only about 12 percent is open to all members of the public. Municipalities control more than a third of the beaches, where restrictive access and parking permits lock down use almost exclusively for town residents. Many of these towns receive taxpayer money to protect their vital resource from the impacts of climate change. Critics say this puts taxpayers on the hook for maintaining a natural resource that is often off-limits to them. Meanwhile, some public beaches in coastal cities are prone to pollution that triggers government warnings against swimming. Public beaches in Dorchester, Quincy and Lynn were each closed to bathers more than a dozen days in 2020. As state lawmakers and advocates push for radical changes to these problems, we turn our attention to the shifting sands of Massachusetts' beach policies.

Follow the series below from the GBH News Center for Investigative Reporting. E-mail the team at investigations@wgbh.org.
The state inventoried public access to beaches in 1990 — and has never tried to do it again.

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