Public vs Private Beach [threads merged]

Discussion in 'Local Government and Groups' started by SoWal Staff, Feb 29, 2016.

  1. Teresa

    Teresa SoWal Guide Staff Member

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    Letter Walton County Beaches | Northwest Florida Daily News

    Posted Mar. 30, 2016 at 9:00 AM

    The public beaches of Walton County are being turned into private beaches by beachfront property owners. How can they do that? They hired lawyers to do it. Now is the time for the public, through the county, to hire a lawyer to defend our right to use the beach.The Doctrine of Customary Use affirms the right of the public to use the dry sandy portion of the beach no matter who holds the title.Beachfront property owners have cried that recognizing the right of the public to use the beach is a taking.

    At the March 16 public hearing, beach access expert David Theriaque stated that recognition of customary use is not a taking of private rights. He further stated that “customary use is well recognized and established in Florida and other jurisdictions.”Another objection of beachfront property owners is that they will be liable for incidents that happen on their property.

    Theriaque stated on March 16 that “absent gross negligence, there is no exposure to the property owner.”Tourism in Walton County is all about the beaches.

    While tourists are here enjoying the beaches they spend billions of dollars paying rent, eating at restaurants and spending money at small businesses. Tourists will find somewhere else to spend their money if the no trespassing signs on the beaches persist.The cost of doing nothing will cost the county much more in the long run.

    Walton County must hire a beach access expert now.

    - CELESTE COBENA, Santa Rosa Beach
     
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  2. John G

    John G Beach Fanatic

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    It is really amazing how some people have no respect or regard for owners that actually own their beachfront property, worked hard to get it and purchased it legally.

    Sounds like a lot of people are very envious of these owners and are using the "tourists will leave" argument to push their agenda of jealously along.

    The tourists won't leave. Hopefully the recent (past few years) of ignorant and inconsiderate ones will, but the real tourists, the one's we want here, will stay.

    The County needs to be focusing on buying as much of the vacant lots that they can and improving the beach accesses.

    I also think the Beach Vendor issue is embedded in this as well and they are also to blame for this backlash. Many of them think they "own" the beach.
     
  3. jkmason

    jkmason Beach Lover

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    Just came back from a beach walk - blue mountain beach main public access to the Ed Waline public access.

    The first thing you see while stepping off the beach stairs are 2 private beach signs directly to the west side of the public access portion of beach; one sign is posted up by the dunes and the second sign down by the wet sand.

    The entire signed beach front is staked near the wet sand from one end to the other with beach umbrellas; much like a picket fence.

    Signs simply state "private beach". They appear to be marking the beach in front of the small 4 home development directly adjacent to the public access.

    Then continuing westbound you run into private beach signs located in front of the blue mountain beach villas/condos development.

    After that are more private beach signs located in front of the village of white cliffs. These signs state that people on their beach must display wrist bands; and they also encourage their guests to report violators.

    All these no trespassing signs are pushing visitors to beach areas east of the access and in front of the old blue mountain beach development.

    I will try to go back out this evening and take some pictures.
     
    Last edited: Mar 30, 2016
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  4. Teresa

    Teresa SoWal Guide Staff Member

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    Oh wow. Beach signs are multiplying and public beach access is in real danger. I hope the County can find a solution and fast.

    I'm not envious of any Gulf front property owner. If I owned a gulf front home, I would not try to keep people from "my" beach. This is unheard of until very recently, unless it is a larger private resort property. Even then, people should be able to walk through and hang out within reason. I can't imagine going to Grayton Beach and having a homeowner tell us we had to get off the beach. It is just not done.
     
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  5. jkmason

    jkmason Beach Lover

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    These are photos of the signs I referenced in my earlier post today. The signs have a been moved back toward the dunes since it is now 5:30 pm and people and chairs are leaving the beach.

    During the day they are placed from mid beach and toward the wet sand. A visitor walking down the beach could easily interpret the signs to mean that they are not allowed to even walk the wet sand beach area.

    Anyway, the beach is starting to look like a war zone of no trespassing signs. It's not as much fun to walk the beach.

    image.jpeg image.jpeg image.jpeg
     
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  6. buster

    buster Beach Fanatic

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    @John G this is how beachfront owners take care of "their" beach. Owning beachfront is ludicrous. The beach belongs to the people!
    Oh and by the way, you can't see it in this photos but this is in Gulf Trace which has dozens of septic tanks and drain fields just under the sand where children play.

    Illegal geotubes and seawalls all up and down OUR beaches. Disgusting!

    [​IMG]
     
  7. Teresa

    Teresa SoWal Guide Staff Member

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    @jkmason thanks for taking the time to post photos. Wow.
     
  8. MRBS

    MRBS Beach Lover

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    "Anyway, the beach is starting to look like a war zone of no trespassing signs. It's not as much fun to walk the beach"

    Agree. Signs, posts, roped off areas not welcoming at all; changes the whole dynamic for the worst IMHO. Sad. Wristbands?!!!! are you kidding!?
     
  9. ASH

    ASH Beach Fanatic

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    I'll step out on this limb John G. I'm coming to visit for 10 days starting next week. I'm bringing a couple who've never been to Walton County beaches. They vacation multiple times per year with us. I lived in the Santa Rosa Beach area for about 5 years.
    Our intent is to enjoy the white sand my Wife and I miss so much. I hope we discover a turtle nest while there. I was a turtle walker when I lived there.

    If all I find when I attempt to introduce new friends to my favorite beach to be on is no trespassing signs, I guarantee you this will drive me away from wanting to visit Walton county.

    Perhaps some folks think the reason I come back is because I met a few cool people at a beach party. You'd be wrong. I came for the beach. I'm coming back for the beach. And, if the beach isn't available, I have plenty of options I will absolutely consider without question. Good luck affording Walton county without tourists.
     
  10. John G

    John G Beach Fanatic

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    Ash, let's say I like to visit where you live. I enjoy watching birds or some other wildlife.

    There is a local park about a half mile from your home

    But I like to set up "camp" the front yard of your home, which you own and have a deed to.

    How will you address the issue of me (tourist to your area), now hanging out in your front (or back) yard?
     
  11. ASH

    ASH Beach Fanatic

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    I appreciate the comparison, although I don't think they compare as a black and white line. The beachfront property owners have property that backs up to the Gulf of Mexico that has different jurisdictional definition than landlocked lines. The gulf waters and immediate beach belongs to the United States. The disputed wet/moist/dry sand is the sticking point between property owners and beach goers.

    This will be the difficult one to sort out. I agree, there are many who aren't playing fair. This is where I truly feel for the owners and can understand them pushing their rights in an effort to get some sort of relief from those who abuse the beaches.

    This goes both ways too. I can show you private property signs sticking up out of the Gulf of Mexico many feet from any sand. Probably sitting there at Dune Allen yet this morning. TDC trucks are running across the sand North of the sign.

    So back to your question about setting up camp. You're an owner of beachfront property. You walk down to the beach from you home and pause at the waters edge and look at all that beautiful sand beach just begging for you to go for a walk on. But, alas, your neighbor's both have signs right down to the waters edge marking "their" private property and all you can do is sit on "your" sand and not go for that walk. There are those who will go this far.
     
  12. Mike Smith

    Mike Smith Beach Lover

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    We have a neighborhood beach access in front of our place. The beach vendors hog up nearly all of the shoreline with empty chairs by 7-7:15am - and most remain empty for the day. This leaves a large number of people with no where to set up. Where do they go? Well, they move down the beach and set up on someone elses private beach.

    The problem as I see it are three fold: #1 Beach vendors - they need to be heavily regulated and IMHO shut down because of their beach abusing behavior #2 Trash - If beachgoers really followed the "leave no trace" rule there would likely be fewer "no trespassing signs." It sickens me when I have pick up so much of others' trash when taking a stroll on the beach. I would be extremely PO'ed if I had to pick up other people's trash on my own property. #3 Legal - I have heard second hand that some of the no trespassing signs are being posted on advice of attorneys. Don't know if this is true, but if it is, it's hard to blame the home owners from protecting themselves from our litigious society.

    Solution: #1 - Beach Vendors cannot set up without the client present and in possession of the chairs/umbrella. No beach storage overnight for the vendor set-ups. #2 - The TDC should pay for a clean-up crew to walk the beaches and pick up trash. Beach patrols need to start handing out reasonable fines ($25 - $50) for littering, glass on the beach, etc. #3 If there truly is liability to the home owners then ways to remove this liability should be explored.

    Just my $.02
     
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  13. gailforce

    gailforce Beach Lover

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    The WCSO's new SOP for beach requires those signs.
     
  14. Jenksy

    Jenksy Beach Fanatic

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    Dumb

    Say I own an apartment on Central Park with a deeded yard. Except it doesn't look like a yard. There's just a park there with imaginary lines where my yard is. People have been using the park for decades.

    So today I take my small square of yard that is part of Central Park and I rope it off and put up no trespassing signs.

    Dumb

    People have a right to the beach!
     
  15. jkmason

    jkmason Beach Lover

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    image.jpeg image.jpeg Here is what it looks like this morning at the Hwy 83 Blue Mountain Beach access. The private beach signs and chairs/umbrellas will prevent visitors from setting up on the west side of the 83 beach access.

    The owner of the property just east of the access is also considering posting his beachfront private property as well.

    If that happens there will be a relatively small area to the left and right of the lifeguard tower available for visitors. Then the domino effect will encourage additional private beach claims and signage. This could happen at a very rapid pace.

    I don't believe the TDC or Walton County are seeing the full impact of this recent trend.

    We are at the crossroads. People's livelihoods and ability to enjoy an unfettered beach are at stake.
     
  16. Teresa

    Teresa SoWal Guide Staff Member

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    @jkmason thanks for the photos. So, are the beach vendors working with the home owners on these properties to rent out chairs on their private beach? Who is allowed to rent them?
     
  17. jkmason

    jkmason Beach Lover

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    I did speak to the beach vendor. He has been following the posts on this forum. Per the owners request, he was previously asking people to leave the posted private beach area, but has stopped that practice. This was due, in part, to push back from posts on this forum and personal contact with people from the community.

    Regarding who can rent the chairs: Although I didn't ask the vendor specifically, it appears that they are just for the use of the guests.
     
  18. jkmason

    jkmason Beach Lover

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    Seaside is no longer allowing the public on "their" beaches.

    Local with out of town guests had the following experience yesterday:

    I am the friend Mike is referring to in this post. This happened to me yesterday while trying to take my sister and family who are here from out of town to the beach. We did use the public beach access in between Watercolor and Seaside. We normally go to Grayton but due to the poor water testing results we decided to play it safe and go to a different beach. The only clear spot we found to set up our chairs was just inside the seaside west boundary. We were then approached by what I assume was a homeowner and he told us we could not sit there and we had to move to the watercolor sign or security would come and force us to move. Not wanting to make anymore of a scene we complied. We had 5 little children with us and it was embarrassing. My husband later called WCSO and the deputy told him we did not have to move, there was nothing they could do to make us move if we wanted to stay on the "seaside" side of the blue flags. I was shocked and embarrassed. And I will tell you it did not leave a good impression of our area with my sister and her family.

    image.jpeg
     
    Last edited: Mar 31, 2016
  19. Truman

    Truman Beach Fanatic

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    Seaside has always been private. It was low key until a few years ago when they started enforcement. Each street Pavilion is owned by that streets' HOA. They don't want non owners and non rental guests on them.

    At the access between Seaside and WaterColor there is not much public beach space.
     
  20. BlueMtnBeachVagrant

    BlueMtnBeachVagrant Beach Fanatic

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    Well it certainly does appear that the proverbial sh#t is really hitting the fan hard the this year.

    I wondered when the 4 homes next to the BMB access would finally push back on being able to use their own property as prescribed by law: "Quiet enjoyment is a right to the undisturbed use and enjoyment of real property by a tenant or landowner." And my prediction regarding Redfish Village several years ago is coming to fruition...more and more guests from that complex crowding their small lot and trespassing on the neighbors to the west - actually taking it over. And jkmason's pictures (thank you) above confirms what I was saying - that Redfish Village takes over their lot (the one that the public has full easement rights to) with chairs and umbrellas before most of us wake up.

    I guess the early bird catches the beach.

    But never mind the "mean ole greedy" individual beach front owners along Blue Mountain Beach.

    Let's talk about these other locations for a while...
    Seaside;
    Watercolor;
    Watersound;
    Alys Beach;
    Rosemary Beach.

    These are HUGE developments with LOTS of PRIVATE beach.

    The bulk of the posts I see in this forum seem to attack individual owners - it's easier I guess. But where's the outrage regarding these corporations who control huge amounts of beach front property? I've read posts where people discussed boycotting Maries because they are a SBA member. Why not boycott all of Seaside? Why not boycott the ever popular Bud and Alleys and other restaurants who sit within the Seaside area? Why not boycott Fish Out of Water in Watercolor? Why not boycott Caliza and George’s in Alys Beach? Why not boycott Cowgirl Kitchen and CK Feed & Supply in Rosemary Beach? Why not boycott all the shops and restaurants in the other "private beach" locations?

    For the many, that would just inconvenience their lifestyle. So the outrage is then simply muted as they sip their wine and watch the sunset from these restaurants.

    Regarding customary use, I think it would be very easy for the gulf-front owners to demonstrate that until recently, there was no issue with the owners and their guests being able to set up their chairs and umbrellas in front of and on top of their own property. So some owners are currently engaged to preserve what they always had in the past (guaranteed by their title and law). And then there are other beachfront owners - trying to prevent this situation by preemptively placing signs.

    Early bird used to mean going to a restaurant at 5:00 to get a deal. Not anymore.

    A vote for the idea of customary use and public beach is a vote for converting our beautiful area to a Destin and Panama City Beach. I personally had a choice to buy into any of these areas - I chose Blue Mountain Beach for the beauty of the area and its peacefulness.
     
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