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Question for Customary Use supporters - Public density across the beaches?

Discussion in 'Local Government and Groups' started by Shannon Lince, Sep 16, 2018.

  1. Shannon Lince

    Shannon Lince Beach Lover

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    Assuming the likely result that customary use will be proven in court and all private beaches become public, my question is how do we ensure an equal as possible distribution of public access and use of the beach? How does the density of people get spread out?

    In PCB/Bay for example there are close to one hundred public access points, they are more or less equally spaced out which results in a more or less even distribution of people using the beach.

    But in Walton county, a real challenge exists flipping from private to public. Two examples of which there are several: Seacrest Beach vs. Watersound. Every inch of Seacrest Beach is packed elbow to elbow, where as Watersound has vast stretches of open generally low density beach. What does the community do about that? Do they get rid of private roads and create an ordinance banning gated communities to ensure the public has fair and open access to all of it's beach equally?

    So it's a question of occupancy and access. How do we spread out the use of the community's newly acquired twenty miles of public beaches?

    Shannon
     
  2. lazin&drinkin

    lazin&drinkin Beach Lover

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    Might I be so bold as to offer an olive branch to Dave and Daniel in pursuit of your hypothetical, Shannon?

    If you two guys and all your fellow travelers are so ready to provide assistance to affidavit availability, execution, collection, and delivery to the BCC, would it be too much to ask if you win that you make a similar effort to not only work to open and make those beaches more accessible to the rest of us but also right away provide the same sort of effort that you afforded affidavits to making maps showing those beaches and means of easiest access for the hordes? I don't have any private beach and don't know how to get to yours, and I bet there are 4 million tourists and fifty thousand locals who don't either.

    Don’t be meanies like you say Hack and Huckabee are. How about it, guys? Put your heart where your money is.
     
  3. Everytime

    Everytime Beach Fanatic

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    I asked Dave Rauschkolb (and the SoWal readership as a whole) a similar question back in late June or early July, and I think I included all of the larger “residential/resort communities” such as Alys Beach, Rosemary Beach, SanDestin, Seaside, Watercolor and Watersound, and what the “public access and use” status of the beachfront adjacent to those communities is for locals or visitors who do not live or rent there.

    Dave responded to me that the Seaside development allows public access and use of the central beach area behind his restaurant, and others (including a Seaside resident) clarified that approximately 30% of the Seaside beach is open to the public, but the beaches adjacent to the private pavilions and those immediate homes are private.

    At that time, I thought I had read that Dave also lived in Seaside, but he stated at the CU hearing that he lives in Watersound. Also, in the news coverage I’ve seen regarding Daniel Uhlfelder’s visits to Vizcaya, it was stated that he lives in Watercolor.

    Does the public (local residents and visiting tourists) have access to and free use of dry sand beaches of Alys Beach, Rosemary Beach, SanDestin, Seaside, Watercolor, and Watersound?

    What about the “beach clubs” at Watersound and Watercolor? Can anyone go set up a chair and enjoy the beach if not a “club member” and not using club amenities? And what about “the other 70%” of Seaside, in front of pavilions, can a Chat Holley Rd resident go set up down there this weekend and listen to the Florida/Tennessee game?

    It seems that most of the conflict comes between the Customary Use proponents and either Vizcaya or similar sized HOAs, or individual beachfront homeowners. What about beach access and use among the communities I’ve listed?
     

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  4. Shannon Lince

    Shannon Lince Beach Lover

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    Good observation. Well we don't know because these properties seem to be off limits from protest.

    How would someone with two chairs, an umbrella, a cooler and a football even get to Watersound's beach club beach? To me a bigger question is do they believe that things are going to stay "residents only" once customary use goes in place? That's the question, how will the public get to these new public beach properties.

    Shannon
     
  5. Dave Rauschkolb

    Dave Rauschkolb Beach Fanatic

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    Here you go "Everytime" I hope this helps.

    To answer your question, 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 individually for each call wherever the renter wished. 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.

    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 holes, 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.
     
    Last edited: Sep 17, 2018
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  6. Everytime

    Everytime Beach Fanatic

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    Thank you for the thorough response, @Dave Rauschkolb. I appreciate you taking the time to address the angles and questions I brought up. I hope I didn’t come across as pigeon-holing you as an official representative of Seaside or Watersound in addition to being a leader among the Customary Use proponents. You were very fair in giving detailed explanations of those and other communities’ policies and/or customs on access and use while also giving your personal take on it. That is the type of discourse that we all need to share - AND hear, as everyone that loves the community, whether they be a local beachfront resident, local inland resident, beachfront property owne, inland property owner, or frequent visitor such as myself, we EACH have our unique experience in the area, and those experiences as well as what we each share and hear in this forum and other social media forums and news articles shapes our views on the issues.

    Obviously, Vizcaya shows up in the news and in all of the social media forums because of the reactions of Mr. Hackmeyer and the HOA’s security forces, and I think I’ve heard of a few other repeated head to head confrontations in similar communities. We obviously can’t oveelook the Mike Huckabee spectacle either, due to him being a public figure who has been active in the legislative issue at hand. I remember a notable former college football coach attending some BCC meetings in the past speaking in defense of his privacy down near Deer Lake, but I haven’t heard anything from him lately.

    I understand your point about the geographic convenience of many of the planned community beaches being functionally exclusive to residents/guests of those respective communities. I personally haven’t heard of any confrontations at any of them, but I would also guess that most people, local beachgoers and tourists alike, don’t even bother to penetrate the barriers at the planned community beaches adjacent to public accesses on their east/west borders due to all of the long-standing signs, wristband/credential requirements, and established “security” staff (in addition to what you mentioned about having to haul their stuff so far).

    It does seem, though, that Mr. Hackmeyer, Mr. Huckabee, Shannon Lince, and other BFOs in individual homes and/or smaller communities and condos are easier targets - undoubtedly because they’re the public or social media face of it, but in effect, the same exclusions could be taking place at the Seaside pavilions and Alys, Rosemary, etc. as well as the JOE beach clubs which market “private beach” among their amenities.

    Again, I appreciate your thoroughness and explanation and most of all giving your personal take on it independently of the planned communities where you live and operate your businesses.

    And I’m in 100% agreement with your recent criticism of the beach chair mafia! I think we can all agree that their egregious taking of waterfront dry sand real estate, whether at public beach accesses or in front of private homes and communities, is what’s making the rest of us butt heads over our awesome beaches!
     

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