Who Owns the Beach? Destin Homeowners May Re-File for Hearing in Claim Against City

By: Meagan O'Halloran Email
By: Meagan O'Halloran Email

A recent federal court ruling could have a major impact on trespassing laws for public and private beaches. A group of Destin beachfront property owners lost the case against the city of Destin and the Okaloosa County Sheriff's office.

A line is literally being drawn in the sand behind the Crystal Dunes Resort separating the public and private beach. The boundary sign says it is "strictly enforced", but that seems to be the biggest debate.
It's the difference between the public beaches and the private ones.

New Orleans resident Jevon Julien was surprised to hit the public beach in Destin only to find it roped off on both sides.

"This is not the beach I was looking forward to. I came here to play; came to jump around and have my fun time, and I have boundaries where I might get in trouble just because I cross the line?" What kind of vacation is that?"

To the Crystal Dunes beachfront property owners--this case has been anything but a vacation.

They've demanded the city and sheriff's office enforce trespassing laws but the city's policy only enforces trespassing up to 20-feet from the wet sand edge.

"I think anytime you can make the law simple so everyone can understand it, (that way everyone is clear on what you can and cannot do) you're better off. When you try to complicate it with erosion control lines, mean high tide lines, and having to have a survey every week to see where the property line is-- it gets very complicated" said Okaloosa County Sheriff Larry Ashley.

Last week the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta affirmed a Pensacola district court's dismissal of homeowners' claims of violation of due process and equal protection against the city.

"I don't think we broke any ground here or created any case law, it's just basic common sense wins out every time" added Sheriff Ashley.

The Crystal Dune beachfront property owners are now considering the option to file for a re-hearing.

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