Walton County has been fighting a battle to keep the 26 miles of beach open to the public. As of July 1st, their previous customary use ordinance is no longer in effect.
It was a relatively calm Sunday when the Florida Statute went back to privatizing many part of South Walton’s beaches. Walton County Sheriff’s deputies say, things have been pretty smooth so far.”
“I saw a lot of peaceful protesters walking along the sand line. They didn’t create any issues with the home owners. I had one incident in a 7 hour period,” shared Paula Pembleton, Walton County Sheriff’s Deputy.
Dozens of locals took to the beach on July 1, to “Stand their Sand.” In the past, all 26 miles of beach is South Walton were open to the public.
On July 1, that changed. All dry sand in front of a private property is once again closed to the public.
“What we are dealing with now is a lot of people own these private beaches so, with that being said, our beach goers who come here during the weekend are having to be educated on what that customary use is and what it isn’t and where those boundaries are,” said Deputy Pembleton.
Beach front property owners can now legally place signs warning beach goers against trespassing.
“This is more of a civil issue than a criminal issues when they are trespassing on these private beaches,” explained Deputy Pembleton.
Sheriff Mike Adkinson says, before anyone is put in handcuff’s, the person must be verbally warned, a sign must be shown and a deed proving the property line must be given to the deputy.
“What we are trying to accomplish is keeping the peace between everybody,” shared Deouty Pembleton.
Additional forces have been assigned to the beach to help inform locals and visitors to ensure safety.
For safety reason, beach officials recommend beach goers use the designated public beach accesses.