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"The people shall continue to enjoy and freely exercise all the rights of fishery and the privileges of the shore."
-General laws of Rhode Island 1956, State Constitution Article I, Section 17
Many of us like to fish with our feet on the ground. Right of Ways are important to us because without them we cannot go fishing with our historical freedom. The rights of ways are there for us to use. They are not privileges of way, they are "Rights". The Constitutions of our States are based on Colonial Charters that grandfathered-in these rights to the shore for fishing, gathering, and to pass over for recreation.
As the owners of these rights we have the authority to use them at will for our own private purpose, and the States have the legal obligation to protect and enforce our right by using signs to point them out, and to find and publish their locations. We have the legal right to pass over private property to reach the shore if there are historical right of way paths present.
The States have the further obligation to purchase new rights of way to the shore for the general public from funds designated for this purpose. Rights of way cannot be lost if they are assimilated and forgotten. They are still present and if an encroachment is made on an existing "Right of Way", another one must be designated to take its place. The colonists who came to America wanted these rights to fish and hunt and gather and to pass over private property for the simple reason that they did not have these rights in Europe, and wanted to be protected from exclusion to the natural resources of the new world as they had been excluded in the Old world. Rights of way are more important than ever if we are to maintain our freedom to access the shore. With the development of the shoreline, many of our "Rights of Way" have been hidden, and local authorities have allowed powerful inhibitors to our knowledge and use of them to remain.
Rights of Way do not belong to local authorities. They belong to the general public, and the State has the obligation to be our advocate in removing these inhibiting ordinances. The local municipalities seem to have taken a policy of looking the other way when property associations place barricades and signage restricting passage to "residents only" or street signs that state "private road residents only" on public highways that have historically been used by everyone. There are so many instances of this type of discrimination against the public by self interest groups that it would appear to have become acceptable municipal policy. The law is on the side of the general public because our forefathers wanted these rights to be inherited by all men.
They did not want us to be prevented from exercising legal and historical rights to the shore by an arbitrary modern day Sheriff of Nottingham attitude that blocks access with granite boulders and no parking signs that discriminate against the general population. If we don't do something soon, our children will have no access to the shore except on public bathing beaches, and that will be our legacy to them. We are losing public awareness of our rights to nature and each year more and more "Rights of Way" are lost to public use because no one cared enough to tell others about it. We have the legal rights to the shore if we claim them.