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Governor’s Executive Order Only a Temporary Fix for Beach Access

July 13th, 2018 by Jake Stofan
Governor Rick Scott has issued an executive order urging local governments to make sure the public doesn’t lose access to Florida beaches.
The order comes just two weeks after a new law took effect that many argued restricts beach access.
When HB 631 took effect it established a process for local governments to allow public access on private beaches.
Christina Basile lives on Shell Point Beach.
She says she interpreted the law to mean she had the right to cut off public access.
“I’ve got no qualms with them, but based on that new law I could actually go out there and tell them [to leave],” said Basile.
The law caused a lot of confusion, especially in Walton County.
Previously a local ordinance maintained an open beach policy, but the new law preempted it.
A cell phone video taken last week captured an interaction with Walton County Sheriff’s deputies informing two women they were on a private beach and had to leave.
“Our interpretation of the law was that beach front property had to be treated identically as residence in a neighborhood,” said Walton County Sheriff, Mike Adkinson.
The Governor’s office issued an executive order Thursday, in an effort to encourage local governments to avoid persecuting confused beachgoers.
“It does encourage local governments, sheriff’s, state’s attorney’s to perhaps use some caution and discretion in terms of enforcement and in charging people with trespassing,” said Holly Parker with the Surfrider Foundation.
The order also directs local governments to only pass ordinances restricting access to public beaches if it’s in the name of public safety.
Democrats are calling the move a flip flop on the law the Governor signed only four months ago.
The Governor’s Office says the executive order doesn’t undo anything in the law.
Instead, Scott’s office says the order only clarifies his position on public access to beaches and establishes a way for the public to file complaints.
“The public, visitors alike should rest assured that they should continue to utilize the beach as they always have, but it’s something for the state to sort out in the long term because this isn’t a permanent fix,” said Parker.
Beaches created by dredging are always accessible to the public.
If you feel you’re being blocked access to a public beach, you will soon be able to file a complaint online with the Department of Environmental Protection.

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