There have been plenty of workshops, classes, forums and educational opportunities in Walton County lately. And it isn’t to prepare for the upcoming school year or for the county’s annual budget.
It’s all conversation about the beach; who owns it and who can use it.
The conversation that isn’t happening about customary use, though, is the one based in reality. And that needs to happen. Now.
Residents in favor of customary use need to realize that these property owners do have real property rights, and while the beach is something a lot of people enjoy, it isn’t the property owners who drew these lines to the water line.
Beachfront owners who are against customary use need to realize that the beach is different than any other land in the world, especially in this area. This area isn’t traditionally called the Redneck Riviera just because it is located in the Southeast. It’s called that because for decades people have been bringing their families here for vacation and using these beaches as an affordable, fun piece of paradise.
Yes, the affordable part is ever-shrinking, but the connection of the people to the land isn’t. Yes, these owners should be able to go to the beach without fighting to get a spot.
But owners aren’t doing anyone any favors by running people off the edge of a property line when no one else is around. That’s just rude and unnecessary. How much of your life are you enjoying if you’re just sitting there waiting for someone to come so you can tell them to leave an empty beach?
And the public doesn’t help when they go on these owners’ properties and act like they were born in a barn. Yes, the incidents are far fewer than some make them out to be, but there are incidents. That is unacceptable. And if there is public beach to sit on, sit on it. There’s no need to go to Vizcaya just to anger Old Man Hackmeyer. The “without dispute and without disruption” parts of customary use are gone. You’re doing nothing more than making a scene and wasting county resources when sheriff’s deputies inevitably are called.
The truth is this: Neither side is going to get everything, and both sides are going to end up spending a lot of money on the issue.
Owners, people always are going to use those beaches, regardless of the law. And when you call the police and pay for security and waste your time and money to try to keep them out, that’s your loss.
Residents, many property owners are deeded to the mean high water line, and it isn’t a case of old days trickery that led to them owning it. That’s how the lines were drawn, and the people who let that happen have been out of office for decades. Be mad at your parents’ and grandparents’ officials.
Have real conversations. Compromise. Find the answers that will get Walton County moving forward again.