Whether you live in Florida or enjoy spending some time in the sun during your vacation to the Sunshine State, you likely enjoy the miles of beautiful sandy beaches. But unless you’re a homeowner with beachfront property, you may no longer have unlimited access to the sandy shore, or being able to use the beaches when you please.

HB631, which became law last July, privatized certain beaches in Walton County. Whereas you used to be allowed on or able to use any public beach, stipulations now apply to beach properties owned by hotel chains or the wealthy.

What this means for you

In accordance with real property laws, some parts of specific beaches are controlled by those who own property – or at least above the mean high water line. Meanwhile, beach goers who infringe on property owners’ private beaches, whether intentionally or unknowingly, could face arrest and criminal charges.

More than 600 beachfront property owners assert that they have the right to privatize the beach near their homes. But do those in favor of the new real property laws understand the full impact of the legislation?

Concerns related to the reversal of customary use

Whereas limiting beach access may benefit those who can afford to own adjacent properties, that excludes the majority of the county’s population. It may also limit tourism’s addition to the economy.

The majority of the 63,000 people living in Walton County may oppose restricted beach access in relation to:

  • Affordability. The county’s median household income is just shy of $51,000 – not nearly enough to purchase a beachfront property.
  • Tourism. As tourists realize they could face arrest for overstepping unclear boundaries on the beach, it is likely that they will take their business elsewhere.
  • Relocation. While 17% of the county’s residents live in poverty, some of the nearly 4,000 people working in the accommodation and food service industries may need to relocate for employment if tourism suffers.

As opposition to the bill continues, it may be wise to consider the full effects of removing access and use to Floridians who take pride in their home state’s sandy beaches. And when it comes to those visiting the state, why shouldn’t they be able to enjoy all it has to offer?