Walton County beach vendors say beach chairs are helping the economy, residents say opposite

Walton County

WALTON COUNTY, Fla. (WMBB) — Earlier this month, the Walton County Code Enforcement held a public meeting to discuss beach ordinances. An issue that dominated that meeting was the topic of beach vendors.

“There were a lot of concerned citizens that were concerned about vendors setting up and leaving their chairs unattended for lengths of time,” said Tricia Goff, Walton TDC beach operations program coordinator.

But aside from hogging the beach, business people say having a concentration of chairs on the beach has affected the local economy—which is heavily fueled by tourists—because it deters potential customers from going to those affected areas.

“So if you can only go to this much of the Gulf of Mexico without somebody yelling at you or fining you, maybe you plan another trip next year; maybe you don’t come here,” said Jeremiah Campbell, Gaffrey Art Gallery manager. “You got a $200 fine for being in the wrong place at the wrong time, that kind of thing, you don’t come back.”

But vendors say their business is catering to the large-scale clientele.

“We cater to the tourist demand, that’s our clientele, that’s what feeds this entire area is the tourist economy,” said Robert Miralles, 30A Shade owner. “I’ve been here a very long time and it’s a very different area here on 30A compared to 20 years ago. You have a lot more homes that are built that aren’t Gulf-front having to use some of these areas.”

Goff said that that the TDC has implemented a program to help regulate vendors.

“This program allows them to utilize an attendant that will set up the equipment as the customers show up and then they are able to take that equipment down after the customer leaves,” Goff said.

However, this program is only implemented at regional beach accesses and Grayton Beach State Park, leaving neighborhood beach accesses up for grabs.

But Goff said the management program is expanding.

“Last year was the pilot year for Walton County and we had three beach access locations,” Goff said. “This year we expanded it to nine. And right now they’re currently evaluating what locations are feasible to have a managed vendor program.”

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