Are Tents Allowed On Destin Beaches

SANTA ROSA BEACH — A proposal to ban tents from some or all of Walton County's beaches for a broad stretch of the tourist season was among the items discussed Tuesday at a public workshop on possible changes to the county's beach activities ordinance.

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Banning tents on at least some beaches — the county currently allows 10-foot-by-10-foot tents on the public sections of the county's 26 miles of beachs — could bring a sense of  "fairness and peace and decreased irritability," argued the woman who made the suggestion.

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Earlier this year: Walton beach vendors get briefing from county code enforcement

Related: Will competition hurt the little guy? Walton commissioners seek new beach vending manager

The woman, one of a number of people 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 the tents can be a problematic presence.

One reason is that beachgoers from the same group or family often will link as many as three tents together with "zip ties" and create a 10-foot-by-30-foot tent that, more than the 10-by-10 tents, can obscure views and create access problems for other people, she said.

Beachgoers enjoy the surf in Miramar Beach on a recent afternoon. Walton County officials this week began an annual review of the county's beach activities ordinance. © JIM THOMPSON/DAILY NEWS Beachgoers enjoy the surf in Miramar Beach on a recent afternoon. Walton County officials this week began an annual review of the county's beach activities ordinance.

Additionally, it was noted that the guywires used to anchor tents can effectively increase the amount of space they take up on the beach by a considerable degree.

The woman's initial suggestion to ban tents outright from Memorial Day to Labor Day didn't get much discussion, as was also the case with her modified suggestion for banning the tents from public beach accesses that have less than some certain amount of beach frontage.

She was, joined in her call for the county to consider banning tents on the public beaches by Bob Brooke, a South Walton resident who is a frequent presence at local government meetings. Citing the increased number of vacationers coming to the county's beaches, Brooke argued that those growing crowds might be a reason for the county to consider banning the tents.

On a related note Tuesday, there was some discussion of clearing up the difference between a tent and umbrella, inasmuch as some umbrellas brought to the beach are wider than the 6.5-foot diameter umbrellas offered by beach vendors and are often also anchored by guywires that can impede beach access.     

In addition to Cornman, other government representatives at Tuesday's meeting included interim county counsel 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 process for the suspension and revocation of vendor permits.

Changing focus on beach enforcement

The county is planning to move to a points-based system of addressing potential suspension and revocation of permits, Cornman said, although that process is in the very early stages.

"We're just in the planning stages," Cornman told the vendors. "We haven't got points assessed on the violations yet."

From May:  Walton County code enforcement officers issue 80 citations for double-red flag violations

Violations of the vendor provisions in the beach activities ordinance include such things as reckless driving on the beach while delivering beach supplies, moving the signs designating approved vendor zones, failing to meet liability insurance requirements and vending on private property without the owner's permission.

Adkinson told the vendors that the move to a points-based system is aimed at avoiding the issuance of license suspensions for "one or two missteps or minor violations on the code," and instead concentrating on issues that could affect public health and safety.

In that light, Adkinson asked vendors to get in touch with county officials to provide some guidance on what vendors see as less serious violations of the current regulations for which the county might provide some leniency even with some number of repeat violations. 

Umbrellas line the beach earlier this year on Holiday Isle. © [FILE PHOTO/DAILY NEWS] Umbrellas line the beach earlier this year on Holiday Isle.

The aim of that approach is to guide the county toward quicker recognition of serious violations as opposed to lesser violations, he said.

Dana Matthews, an attorney at Tuesday's session, asked for some guidance as to the county's current views on what constitutes a serious violation of vendor regulations, which led to a discussion of bonfires on the beaches.

"You'd be surprised," Cornman said, "how many times we find bonfires down on the beach where people have just buried it (ashes and burned logs)" in the sand. While acknowledging that private citizens, who also can get bonfire permits from the South Walton Fire District, likely are at least part of that problem, Cornman told vendors that bonfire-related issues have attracted the attention of county commissioners.

Beach bonfires attracting officials' attention

"As long as we keep having this stuff (issues with bonfires), they're (commissioners) going to keep getting complaints, and they're going to want something done," Cornman said. "So to protect yourself and to protect the bonfire permitting opportunity, help us to take care of that."

Providing bonfire services can net beach vendors hundreds of dollars per event.

>Full screen 1/6 SLIDES © MICHAEL SNYDER/DAILY NEWS
A beach chair rental business is being run from a house (shown at top) owned by Dallas resident Jan Priest (and back on the market) at the edge of the Inlet Beach/Rosemary Beach border, drawing the ire of residents of both communities.
2/6 SLIDES © MICHAEL SNYDER/DAILY NEWS
A beach chair rental business is being run from this house (shown at top right) that is at the edge of the Inlet Beach/Rosemary Beach border.
3/6 SLIDES © MICHAEL SNYDER/DAILY NEWS
A beach chair rental business is being run from a house at the edge of the Inlet Beach/Rosemary Beach border, drawing the ire of residents of both communities.
4/6 SLIDES © MICHAEL SNYDER/DAILY NEWS
Variously branded beach umbrellas and chairs are seen behind a house in Inlet Beach at its boundary with neighboring Rosemary Beach property owners.
Slideshow continues on the next slide 5/6 SLIDES © MICHAEL SNYDER/DAILY NEWS
A sign marks the boundary between Rosemary Beach and Inlet Beach property.
6/6 SLIDES © MICHAEL SNYDER/DAILY NEWS
Beach chair rentals bearing "Live Well 30A" branding are reserved for a customer at the edge of Inlet Beach and Rosemary Beach. A beach chair rental business is operating from a house for sale on the border.
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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 from 50 feet to 35 feet, in order to give people more room for bonfire attendees in places where the Gulf of Mexico closely approaches the dune line.

The 50-foot limit, Sanchez said, is based on Florida Forest Service standards. And while he's not opposed to looking at the issue, he "would need something more definitive than somebody just saying 35 feet." At 35 feet, "I can't tell you and you can't tell me, nothing's going to happen" in terms of ashes and sparks from a bonfire potentially igniting sea oats and other dune vegetation, he added.

Also discussed Tuesday, but with no resolution, was the issue of when and where beach vendors should be allowed to drive on the beach. It's an issue that can be critical when they are asked to remove their umbrellas, beach chairs, kayaks and other items, along with the boxes in which they are stored, from the beaches as tropical storms and hurricane approach. 

Driving on the beach also is complicated by the fact that stretches of the sand are held by private owners, but Matthews argued that as long as vendors have those owners' permission to cross their beach, "it seems to me the county shouldn't have anything to say about it." 

The annual review of the beach activities ordinance is a prelude to the Walton County Board of County Commissioners enacting new regulations in advance of next year's tourist season. With an eye toward meeting that goal, commissioners have asked that specific proposed changes to the ordinance be brought to them for consideration by the first day of next year.  

This article originally appeared on Northwest Florida Daily News: More changes coming to Walton beaches? County begins annual look at activities ordinance

Source : https://www.msn.com/en-us/news/us/more-changes-coming-to-walton-beaches-county-begins-annual-look-at-activities-ordinance/ar-AAPfdUu

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