BAY COUNTY, Fla. (WMBB) — Controversy continued Wednesday over beach access at the west end of Panama City Beach. The gates were going up at six access points in the Sunnyside neighborhood.
Two dozen residents from the community attended the Bay County Commission meeting to voice their displeasure over the barriers to the beach.
Those gates were constructed by contractors working for the Sunnyside Property Owners Association. Members claim they received permission for the barriers from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, which recommended six gates be built.
Members said the fencing is meant to protect the beaches. But other court records show the Property Owners Association wants the gates up to prevent people from entering the park.
The McCorquodale family, which owns the property, wants the gates to come down. They said the barriers restrict people from accessing public beaches.
The Property Owners Association paid property tax on the land for decades, but last December Bay County tax officials said they corrected ownership of the property back to the McCorquodale’s.
“It’s wrong, the gates are wrong,” Bay County Commissioner Griff Griffitts said. “We’ve made it very clear to the small groups of owners that are doing this that we disagree. We’ve been telling them that for years, they’ve been pushing the issue. They are defying simply what is a permit that is under challenge.”
Neighbors said the gates deter families from enjoying beaches they’ve accessed for generations.
“We have enjoyed it for decades,” Gulf Vista Resident Koren Daniels said. “My children grew up going to the beach and now my grandchildren are going. And as my little five-year-old said, ‘Mema it’s a tradition.'”
News 13 reached out to the Property Owners Association lawyer for comment, but he did not respond.
The McCorquodale’s lawyer said the Bay County Sheriff’s Office issued a trespass warning to the contractor who built the gates.