Leave No Trace Ordinance Could Change

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Memorial Day weekend is the start of the traditional summer tourism season. Bay County and Panama City Beach officials are preparing to inform visitors about some adjustments to the Leave No Trace ordinance.

For years tourists have left tents, beach chairs and coolers on the beach overnight to mark their spot. The Leave No Trace ordinance is designed to stop that behavior.

"When we started this, we had an abidance of tents and they've been cut down greatly," said Gayle Oberst, Mayor of Panama City Beach.

This year the city and county have changed the hours of enforcement from 7:00 p.m. to 7:00 a.m. They've also transferred the enforcement of the ordinance from the tourist development council to the panama city beach police department.

"My goal is to use our reserve officers so that they can get down on the beach and talk to the families and the people visiting Panama City beach and just warn them. 'Hey you can't leave your tents down here, your coolers down here,'" said Chief Drew Whitman of the Panama City Beach Police Department.

Part of their efforts will be to give yellow courtesy warning signs if visitors happen to leave their stuff on the beach overnight. If the items stay another night they'll be removed.

The changes will save the the TDC money and resources.

"I already have officers. I already have vehicles. So ours is set and ready to go. It's just to help them out and help us out to keep our beaches beautiful," said Chief Whitman.

The reserve officers would mainly be used from May through September.

Bay County commissioners will vote on the changes tomorrow and Panama City Beach city council members Thursday. If they pass they could go into effect as early as this weekend.