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On a trip to France just a couple of weeks ago we saw a sign on a river bank that read "SAUF SERVICES ET AYANTS DROITS".  Can anyone explain what this means?  Thanks

 

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Hello Harry.

 

This sign means that only authorized people can enter the area.

Services designates the companies which manages the riverbanks' site.

Ayant droits designates the people who are authorised to take this road to access the river, for example the ones who own little boats or little houses by the riverside.

In the South I've also seen SAUF RIVERAINS. Not a word you'd hear often in conversation.
Although I think "riverain" is more common in French than e.g. "riparian" in English. Incidentally, as far as I'm aware the word "riverain" is standard French-- not necessarily restricted to the south.
I'm sure you're right, Neil. I didn't mean to imply that the word belongs to the langue d'oc, just that I personally haven't seen it elsewhere.
You're right about the biggest frequency of riverain compared to riparian, Neil, especially because our riverain is not the exact equivalent of your riparian. While your word concerns something or someone near a river of other water bodies, the french riverain, while retaining this basal meaning, nowadays designates far more often the inhabitants of a given street. You can indeed see roadsigns into towns indicating accès/stationnement réservé aux riverains.
I'd also add that riparian is an adjective, whereas riverain is a noun.

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