SANTA ROSA BEACH – A proposal to ban tents from some or all of Walton County’s beaches for much of the tourist season was among the items discussed Tuesday at a public workshop on possible changes to the beach. county. beach activities ordinance.
Banning tents on at least some beaches – the county currently allows 10-by-10-foot tents on public sections of the county’s 26 miles of beaches – could bring a sense of “fairness and peace and a decrease in irritability, ”argued the woman who made the suggestion.
The woman, one of many at the workshop – including beach vendors and at least one local attorney representing a beach vendor – told Tony Cornman, director of the county’s code compliance division, that tents can be a problematic presence.
One reason is that beach goers in the same group or family often combine up to three tents with “zip ties” and create a 10ft by 30ft tent which, more than 10ft by 30ft. out of 10, can obscure views and create access problems for other people, she said.
Additionally, it has been noted that the guy ropes used to anchor the tents can actually significantly increase the space they take up on the beach.
The woman’s initial suggestion to ban tents from Memorial Day to Labor Day altogether did not generate much discussion, as was also the case with her amended suggestion to ban tents from access to the sea. public beach that have less than a certain amount of beach frontage.
She was joined in her call for the county to consider banning tents on public beaches by Bob Brooke, a South Walton resident who frequently attends local government meetings. Citing the increased number of vacationers coming to the county’s beaches, Brooke argued that these growing crowds could be a reason for the county to consider banning tents.
On a related note, on Tuesday, there was talk of clarifying the difference between a tent and an umbrella, as some umbrellas brought to the beach are wider than the 6.5-foot-diameter umbrellas offered by vendors at beach and are often also anchored by guy ropes which can obstruct access to the beach.
In addition to Cornman, other government officials at Tuesday’s meeting included acting county attorney Clay Adkinson and Brian Kellenberger, director of beach operations for the Walton County Tourist Development Council.
Beach vendors in attendance learned from Cornman that the county is working on a new vendor license suspension and revocation process.
Focus on Beach Law Enforcement
The county is considering moving to a points-based system to deal with potential license suspension and revocation, Cornman said, although the process is in its very early stages.
“We are only at the planning stage,” Cornman told salespeople. “We do not yet have any points assessed on violations.”
Violations of the vendor provisions in the Beach Activities Ordinance include such things as reckless beach driving while delivering beach supplies, moving signs designating approved vendor areas, non- meeting liability insurance requirements and selling on private property without the owner’s permission.
Adkinson told vendors that the move to a points-based system was intended to avoid issuing license suspensions for “one or two missteps or minor code violations,” and instead focus on issues that could affect public health and safety.
With that in mind, Adkinson asked sellers to contact county officials to provide advice on what sellers see as less serious violations of current regulations for which the county could grant some leniency even if there are violations. repeated.
The purpose of this approach is to guide the county towards faster recognition of serious violations as opposed to less serious violations, he said.
Dana Matthews, a lawyer in Tuesday’s session, asked for advice on the county’s current views on what constitutes a serious breach of supplier regulations, which led to a discussion of bonfires on beaches.
“You would be surprised,” said Cornman, “how often we find bonfires on the beach where people have just buried them (ashes and burnt logs)” in the sand. While acknowledging that private citizens, who can also obtain South Walton Fire District bonfire permits, are likely at least a part of this problem, Cornman told vendors that the bonfire issues had attracted the attention of county commissioners.
Bonfires on the beach attract the attention of authorities
“As long as we continue to have this stuff (issues with bonfires), they (the commissioners) will continue to receive complaints, and they will want something done,” Cornman said. “So to protect you and to protect the opportunity for a bonfire, help us take care of it.” “
Providing bonfire services can net beach vendors hundreds of dollars per event.
On a related note, Sammy Sanchez, Fire Marshal for the South Walton Fire District, rejected a suggestion from beach vendor Phillip Poundstone that the minimum distance between a bonfire and the foot of the beach dunes be reduced by 50 feet to 35 feet, in order to give people more room for bonfire participants in places where the Gulf of Mexico approaches near the dune line.
The 50-foot limit, Sanchez said, is based on Florida Forest Service standards. And while he’s not opposed to looking into the matter, he “might need something more definitive than someone who says just 35 feet.” At 35 feet, “I can’t tell you and you can’t tell me, nothing’s going to happen” in terms of ash and sparks from a bonfire that could ignite sea and sea oats. other dune vegetation, he added.
The question of when and where beach vendors should be allowed to drive on the beach was also discussed on Tuesday, but without resolution. This is an issue that can be critical when asked to remove their umbrellas, beach chairs, kayaks and other items, as well as the boxes they are stored in, from beaches as tropical storms and hurricanes approach. .
Driving on the beach is also complicated by the fact that stretches of sand are owned by private owners, but Matthews argued that as long as the vendors have permission from those owners to cross their beach, “it seems to me that the county shouldn’t have said anything about it. ”
The annual review of the Beach Activities Ordinance is a prelude to the Walton County Board of Commissioners passing new regulations ahead of next year’s tourist season. In an effort to achieve this goal, the commissioners have requested that specific proposed changes to the ordinance be submitted to them for consideration by the first day of next year.