Tiny public beach causes huge problems for nearby property owners

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GWYNN, Va. (WAVY) – What happens when a public beach is only 30 feet wide, and there are private beaches on both sides? Pretty soon those private beaches become public, too, when people start trespassing.

That’s the situation that’s causing a battle on Gwynn’s Island off of Mathews. The public beach in that area is just a narrow strip of VDOT right-of-way. The property owners thought they had a solution earlier this year.

In a hand-written agreement, VDOT agreed to take some corrective measures, but four months later, the state has taken no action.

“It’s very small, so it doesn’t take but one or two carloads of people and it’s full,” said Mark Eubank, who owns the private beach adjoining the public strip on its northern side. “They have no choice but to spread out.”

But that doesn’t stop people from coming in from as far as Richmond.

“When you say look you’re on private property, please move, it’s never like, ‘oh no problem.’ It’s always a confrontation.”

Eubanks has seen four wheel drive vehicles pull onto and ride around on his property, and beachgoers leave behind trash and food garbage.

A state sign had a bullet hole.

The 30-foot wide beach has no bathrooms or even public trash cans.

“People go to the bathroom here in the roadway, (we see) dirty diapers, condoms, dealing drugs, our houses have been broken into, needles in the road, lots of litter,” Eubank says.

The Eubanks and their attorney have a February document signed by a VDOT rep agreeing to post no parking signs and erect a barrier.  VDOT says it’s not yet official. 

“It’s signed by the parties and perfectly enforceable under Virginia law,” said their attorney Stephen Clarke.

The agreement also calls for VDOT to address drainage problems that can carve away the sand.

“I think when we go to court the judge is going to require VDOT to do what they agreed to do,” Clarke said.

Eubank says the property that has been in the family for 45 years.

“This has been a nightmare for us.”

VDOT says it agrees in spirit with the agreement, but it has to be reviewed by the Attorney General’s office. If nothing can be worked out in the next several weeks, the case goes to court July 25.

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