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Dave Rauschkolb

Beach Fanatic
Jul 13, 2005
1,006
790
Santa Rosa Beach
I wrote this in answer to a question on the SoWal Forum. Much of this is from a letter I sent to some Seaside Homeowners recently. I believe it characterizes our situation adequately and offers solutions whether our County is awarded renewed Customary Use or not.

ACCESS & USE, CONVENIENCE ADVANTAGES & HOUSEKEEPING ON THE BEACH

This issue is based on the difference between access and use. In most privately held areas access to the beach is controlled just like in Seaside, Rosemary, Watersound, Watercolor & Alys and others. Use is a different thing all together which is causing all the hullabaloo over Customary Use. The perception problem I see with the private beach advocates is this: "if I own the access, I own the beach." I say they are two different things entirely and the problem arises when one group perceives them to be together and another group sees them as separate.

Rosemary Beach, Seaside, Watersound, Alys and others all have accesses that are private, meaning they control the "easy" access to the beaches; they are the closest to guest homes and parking. Each street has an access for convenience much in the same way Seagrove Beach was designed by Cube McGee. Unlike in Seaside, Cube in the 1940s kept the access public and the beach was and most of it still is deeded for public use. Having an easy access is premium. The fact about going to the beach is, most people just don't want to lug all their beach stuff in the sand more than say, 50 yards.

In Seaside, Robert Davis has chosen, for the past 40 years to allow public access to town center. That access is a positive element when you purchased because "it accommodated all."; I believe the public town center access is good for our town. Again, we are talking about "access." In these instances where privately held towns/resorts have private access it is bought and paid for; it is the most convenient for that reason.

In most all of these towns you have to either be staying there or own there to access the beach conveniently. Public access is an element of wonderful beach towns all around the world and Seaside, thankfully is no different. Part of what makes Seaside exceptional is it's town center public access. Watersound, where I live has the closest public access at Deer Lake State Park just towards the western boundary of Watersound. The closest public access on the east is about a half mile east of the Peninsula gate at Watersound on the other side of the lake bridge. Non residents and tourists do come to Watersound but not too often because it is a long walk. Roughly 65 feet of sandy beach is dedicated to the public in Watersound and all St. Joe properties due to a land deal with the State in the 80's. So, even now Watersound is a public beach with predominantly private access but a large area of the sandy beach is open to the public for sharing if they take the walk. The beach chairs are only usable by renters, homeowners, beach club members or both. Anyone my set up and enjoy the normal customary beach activities anyone would participate in at Watersound Beach. We all know Rosemary Beach and Aly's all have combination locks at all town beach accesses except from the nearest public access. Since HB631 folks may only walk in the wet sand in Rosemary, Alys and the parts of Seaside away from the town center public access area.

Now let's discuss use. Because I am a proponent of Customary Use, I believe that anyone who may access the beach from a public access point may use the beach as people customarily have for centuries. Once they are on the beach they may traverse east or west on any part of the sandy beach and enjoy the beach wherever they please provided they are willing to walk that far with all their stuff. Beach vendors used to take orders for chairs and placed them individually for each call wherever the renter wished. At the end of the day they picked up the chairs. It was a clean transaction; drop off, pickup and get paid. They did not take over large swaths of the beaches with unattended beach chairs like they do now; I expect that is about to change. And my hope is Customary Use will prevail so we may go back to the way we have alway used the beaches until July 1, 2018 when HB631 went into effect.

I contend that all these towns including Seaside have a geographic advantage or rather, a convenience advantage. Remember I said people don't like to lug their stuff more than 50 yards? It is well documented that the areas where conflict occurs regarding use are the sandy parts of the beaches closest to public accesses. Rosemary Beach's E & W border streets, Seaside's E & W border Streets, Blue Mountain Beach, Ed Walline Beach access, etc....the concern and conflicts mostly happen in these areas because you have the public moving on to the beaches behind private homes that border the public access. I would contend that the interior homes that are more than 100 yards from the public accesses have fewer issues if at all. People just don't have the proclivity to walk long distances to go to a specific beach. So, those beachfront owners who bought near a public access should have known people would be using the beach behind their homes. They had the option of buying an interior home with more seclusion but they did not. Many of those folks, the border folks, are the loudest voices pushing for private beaches. I say if you buy a home right next to a cow pasture...well, then get used to the cows. Buyer beware. Pretty simple. We are not hearing so much complaining from the folks in the more secluded areas away from public accesses.

I was in Hanalei Bay on Kauai with my wife some years ago and we stayed at the Princeville Resort. There was a public access around the property to accommodate the public to get to the beach. It was a long walk that most did not take except for the surfers wanting to surf the bay. If you stayed at the resort you had "private access" which was more convenient and provided the privilege of beach chairs and other amenities tied to the resort. The locals and tourists came to the beach by a nearby, bordering public walkway. They had to carry their stuff and were not permitted to rent or use the beach chairs as they were not staying at the resort. They were permitted to use the beach though and set up with their own stuff if they wished. Very few ever did because the resort had a geographic advantage and people had to park and walk a long way to get there. They both shared the resource but with fair ground rules everyone understood. Different access but shared use. Private access on the one hand, Public access on the other. Shared use. Simple, fair and equitable.

Lastly, I suggest, whether CU is re-instated or not, to regulate behavior, be proactive and educate beachgoers we should expand the army of TDC paid Beach Ambassadors. They would be uniformed and trained in public relations on the acceptable Walton County beach do's and dont's. All the current volunteers led brilliantly by Laurie Reichenbach could and should be paid positions. I suggested this program to the County, TDC and Sheriff almost two year ago. Through the partnership of a group of dedicated volunteers and paid TDC staff the program is excellently working to help address behavioral complaints from homeowners and inform the beachgoing public. The irony is, I first suggested that program idea to help address behavior complaints from Beachfront owners and since HB631 they may no longer use and traverse most private beaches to do what they were meant to do.

I suggest breaking out all of the Walton County Beaches into 3 separate sectors with 3 phone numbers. Each team of Ambassadors would work the beaches 24/7 on some acceptable, small vehicle. Electric would be best because they are quiet. These Ambassadors would respond to Beachfront owners concerns about behavior behind their homes. They would call a Beach Ambassador instead of the Sheriff if someone got out of line. If it escalated then the Sheriff would be called. Mostly they would be helpful, friendly, welcoming ambassadors of our community. Keeping an eye out for deep turtle hole diggers, encouraging safety and informing the public. Occasionally they might be needed to usher someone off the dunes or a private walkover. This program is already working; let's make it really work for beachfront owners and us all.

floridabeachesforall.org

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Shannon Lince

Beach Lover
Sep 9, 2018
103
97
Florida
I wrote this in answer to a question on the SoWal Forum. Much of this is from a letter I sent to some Seaside Homeowners recently. I believe it characterizes our situation adequately and offers solutions whether our County is awarded renewed Customary Use or not.

"...Watersound, where I live has the closest public access at Deer Lake State Park just towards the western boundary of Watersound. The closest public access on the east is about a half mile east of the Peninsula gate at Watersound on the other side of the lake bridge. Non residents and tourists do come to Watersound but not too often because it is a long walk. Roughly 65 feet of sandy beach is dedicated to the public in Watersound and all St. Joe properties due to a land deal with the State in the 80's. So, even now Watersound is a public beach with predominantly private access but a large area of the sandy beach is open to the public for sharing if they take the walk. The beach chairs are only usable by renters, homeowners, beach club members or both. Anyone my set up and enjoy the normal customary beach activities anyone would participate in at Watersound Beach. ..."
View attachment 72703

Most of this article is belief ...

Stated: "So, even now Watersound is a public beach with predominantly private access but a large area of the sandy beach is open to the public for sharing if they take the walk."

Fact: Watersound is not a public beach. The 65 feet is a less than 1% of the 1 mile of Watersound/St Joe Paper private beach. It's insignificant.

Fact: It is not "open" to the public. Public access is so far away to be non-existent. State park access, is a paid for access and it dumps out on state park beach which is public. The public access to the east is three neighborhoods over all with private beaches.

Fact: Watersound Beach Club is not open to the public. It is advertised "Private Member Boardwalk Access to Private Beach"

Shannon
 

FactorFiction

Beach Fanatic
Feb 18, 2016
494
409
I applaud your effort to explain why private gated neighborhoods have an advantage, Dave, particularly over neighborhoods that were developed back before the population of both residents and tourists exploded and prior to the popularity of "protected" neighborhoods that could exclude all but their own. Unfortunately, that leaves the onus of customary use on the older neighborhoods that were once used by their neighborhoods similarly to the ways that the gated neighborhoods are now used, but the gated neighborhoods are conveniently inconvenient for the public to use today. I have read a number of accounts by people who claim to have customarily used areas that are now off limits to them due to these gated communities. Why would you expect non-gated areas and neighborhoods to see no problem with customary use when the gated neighborhoods used the right of exclusion so admirably to limit public use of their beaches? I am not against private neighborhoods, but in the "old days", their beaches were used in very similar ways to the non-gated areas and neighborhoods. I bet you won't see any of them volunteering to take down their gates.

Dave, I'm certain you are aware of the next part of what I am about to say, so I say this for the benefit of those who are NOT aware: I also agree that the Beach Ambassador program has been wildly successful and productive, in large part to several important reasons: 1) Laurie Reichenbach who is a natural leader and teacher with unbounded enthusiasm for the job, 2) BA is a strictly voluntary program in virtually every way: work when you want, where you want, and interact in whatever ways you want as long as you are respectful and disseminate accurate information to the greatest degree possible. Some BAs only pick up debris as they walk, some do almost exclusively turtle education, some truly cover a whole expanse of topics. All are valuable. Many do not touch any type of potentially controversial topics like no glass on the beach, no tents/canopies (during CU ordinance), no pets on the beach during certain hours, etc. because they are subject to conflict and BAs (even the paid ones) have no enforcement authority whatsoever. If the whole program changed to paid personnel, many of the things that make the volunteer program so attractive would change. If you are advocating for more trained and paid employees in both the BA and Code Enforcement departments, I wholeheartedly agree AS LONG AS the rules are clearly defined, clearly posted and explained, and definitively ENFORCED. A great deal of the mess we are in today is a result of lack of notice and lack of enforcement.

We are in COMPLETE agreement that, regardless of CU or not, we need a host of changes regarding vendors and education on respectful behaviors on the beach. Couple that with genuine enforcement of the rules and regulations (whatever they may be) and we should be able to have a united community once again.
 
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Danny Glidewell

Beach Fanatic
Mar 26, 2008
725
914
Glendale
We need far more discussions like this one with Dave and FactorFiction rationally discussing the issues and far less name calling and blame game discussions. Everyone has the right to their opinions and the right to state them, but that does not mean those are productive or moving the process in a positive manner. I agree 100% that Laurie is doing yeoman's work with the BA program and that her efforts are a shining light in an otherwise dark summer.
 

FactorFiction

Beach Fanatic
Feb 18, 2016
494
409
We need far more discussions like this one with Dave and FactorFiction rationally discussing the issues and far less name calling and blame game discussions. Everyone has the right to their opinions and the right to state them, but that does not mean those are productive or moving the process in a positive manner. I agree 100% that Laurie is doing yeoman's work with the BA program and that her efforts are a shining light in an otherwise dark summer.

Thank you, Danny. I look forward to your presence on the BCC!
 

Everytime

Beach Fanatic
Jul 9, 2005
439
113
Shelby County, Alabama
Most of this article is belief ...

Stated: "So, even now Watersound is a public beach with predominantly private access but a large area of the sandy beach is open to the public for sharing if they take the walk."

Fact: Watersound is not a public beach. The 65 feet is a less than 1% of the 1 mile of Watersound/St Joe Paper private beach. It's insignificant.

Fact: It is not "open" to the public. Public access is so far away to be non-existent. State park access, is a paid for access and it dumps out on state park beach which is public. The public access to the east is three neighborhoods over all with private beaches.

Fact: Watersound Beach Club is not open to the public. It is advertised "Private Member Boardwalk Access to Private Beach"

Shannon

So the 65’ of public beach in Watersound dedicated to the public goes 65’ from east to west? I was under the impression that it was 65’ depth north to south but running the entire width of Watersound Beach and Watersound West Beach. 65’ of beach frontage among over a mile of beach frontage doesn’t seem like much for the public.
 
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Dave Rauschkolb

Beach Fanatic
Jul 13, 2005
1,006
790
Santa Rosa Beach
I applaud your effort to explain why private gated neighborhoods have an advantage, Dave, particularly over neighborhoods that were developed back before the population of both residents and tourists exploded and prior to the popularity of "protected" neighborhoods that could exclude all but their own. Unfortunately, that leaves the onus of customary use on the older neighborhoods that were once used by their neighborhoods similarly to the ways that the gated neighborhoods are now used, but the gated neighborhoods are conveniently inconvenient for the public to use today. I have read a number of accounts by people who claim to have customarily used areas that are now off limits to them due to these gated communities. Why would you expect non-gated areas and neighborhoods to see no problem with customary use when the gated neighborhoods used the right of exclusion so admirably to limit public use of their beaches? I am not against private neighborhoods, but in the "old days", their beaches were used in very similar ways to the non-gated areas and neighborhoods. I bet you won't see any of them volunteering to take down their gates.

Dave, I'm certain you are aware of the next part of what I am about to say, so I say this for the benefit of those who are NOT aware: I also agree that the Beach Ambassador program has been wildly successful and productive, in large part to several important reasons: 1) Laurie Reichenbach who is a natural leader and teacher with unbounded enthusiasm for the job, 2) BA is a strictly voluntary program in virtually every way: work when you want, where you want, and interact in whatever ways you want as long as you are respectful and disseminate accurate information to the greatest degree possible. Some BAs only pick up debris as they walk, some do almost exclusively turtle education, some truly cover a whole expanse of topics. All are valuable. Many do not touch any type of potentially controversial topics like no glass on the beach, no tents/canopies (during CU ordinance), no pets on the beach during certain hours, etc. because they are subject to conflict and BAs (even the paid ones) have no enforcement authority whatsoever. If the whole program changed to paid personnel, many of the things that make the volunteer program so attractive would change. If you are advocating for more trained and paid employees in both the BA and Code Enforcement departments, I wholeheartedly agree AS LONG AS the rules are clearly defined, clearly posted and explained, and definitively ENFORCED. A great deal of the mess we are in today is a result of lack of notice and lack of enforcement.

We are in COMPLETE agreement that, regardless of CU or not, we need a host of changes regarding vendors and education on respectful behaviors on the beach. Couple that with genuine enforcement of the rules and regulations (whatever they may be) and we should be able to have a united community once again.


Thanks for your thoughtful response F or F,

My original idea was for the Beach Ambassador's to absolutely handle the controversial topics and be trained in non-confrontational public relations to handle awkward situations. Pretty much all of the above, perhaps even code enforcement could be rolled into it. My intention was for it to be a sort of front line for the Sheriff so law enforcement resources would only be called in the extreme cases when someone got out of hand. These folks should have the power of code enforcement.

If a beachfront owner had someone drinking and being loud on the steps of their boardwalk and they lived in Zone B, they would call the Beach Ambassador number in Zone B and give them their address. The BA shows up and politely engages with the person and tells them it is a private boardwalk. If the exchange goes well and the person leaves, no harm, no foul. If the person gets belligerent and stays, then the Sheriff would be called.

The main thing is that the beachfront owners would not have to get involved. One phone call, no engagement with a person they don't know and don't want on their steps, no drama for them and no chance of them getting into an unwanted confrontation.

Proper training is the key of these folks and giving them the latitude and discretion to handle most situations. And, knowing with certainty when to involve law enforcement once it things turn sour with a difficult or belligerent person.
 

Lake View Too

SoWal Insider
Nov 16, 2008
7,222
3,783
Eastern Lake
The phone number for the BA for Zone B would be displayed in the rental, so the Visitors could easily contact Ambassador B rather than go through the rental agency and/or owner. My 2 cents to a plan that seems well thought out.
 

FactorFiction

Beach Fanatic
Feb 18, 2016
494
409
Thank you for your response, Dave. There are definitely some BAs who could handle the task. It will be interesting to see how many would be willing to do it as a paid job if some authority or code enforcement is rolled into it. You might want to consider zones having no more than 3-4 miles, depending on crowding and whether the state parks want assistance, too. Coverage for timely response has been a problem prior to July 1 of this year. Not sure since then since there has been limited driving on private property by the County and TDC. To be Code Enforcement trained, the current training is located elsewhere in FL (don't remember where) and lasts the better part of a week, I believe, if they are to be authorized to write warnings or tickets, if needed. While I have heard that there are 4 CE officers on duty, my experience would be that rarely are 4 on duty during the same hours. Last summer (2017), there were 11 CE officers and quite often I was told that the slow response time was due to there being only 2 on duty due to one thing or another. The exception was during 1:30 -3:00pm when there was a shift change. Maybe that wasn't the case as often as it seemed, but I was told that on several different occasions. While I like the idea of WCSO assisting, if needed, I suspect there is a fine line between what CE should be able to handle and what WCSO would handle. Hopefully, those distinctions could be worked out and there would be enough paid and trained BA with some authority to have an intermediate "penalty" for violations prior to WCSO involvement.
 

miznotebook

Beach Fanatic
Jul 8, 2009
925
556
Stone's throw from Inlet Bch
So the 65’ of public beach in Watersound dedicated to the public goes 65’ from east to west? I was under the impression that it was 65’ depth north to south but running the entire width of Watersound Beach and Watersound West Beach. 65’ of beach frontage among over a mile of beach frontage doesn’t seem like much for the public.

I think the attached is the provision that applies regarding the public area (#8 on the page). It's found on page 33 of the Topsail Consent Final Judgment. Here is a link to the whole document: https://www.co.walton.fl.us/DocumentCenter/View/3608/TopsailJudgment
 

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