Panama City Beach, Florida - Locals have always enjoyed a day out at Shell Island, but their activities may soon be restricted by new government regulations. The Florida Department of Environmental Protection’s Park Service is preparing to update the state park's ten-year management plan. It's currently operating under one approved in 2004.
The process for updating the plan includes a St. Andrews park advisory group meeting with local stakeholders and a public hearing.
Friends of Shell Island is a group who wants to protect their rights at the island. Founder, Stephanie Somerset, say the state wants to take some of those rights away and eventually turn the island into a place no one wants to go.
“We founded Friends of Shell Island partly to help people understand that this is a threat to our access to the island, and it doesn't have to be a threat because people have been taking care of the island for many, many years, and respecting the island. And we don't need anymore restrictions on us,” said Somerset.
One of their biggest concerns is that the state park wanted to extend their rules 150 feet in the water surrounding the entire western half of the island.
Somerset says this rule will cause people to stay away from the island.
“If they extend this boundary out into the water, they essentially have the authority to tell you to leave at anytime.” said Somerset. “If they think they saw a bird fly up, and you disturbed it, they could ask you to leave, and I don't think that will set well.”
St. Andrews State Park will host a public hearing in the fall to present the draft plan for the park to the public.