Bay County to Vote on "Leave No Trace" Ordinance

By: Mark Vaughn Email
By: Mark Vaughn Email

If you like to take your tent or umbrella to the beach and then leave them behind when you leave, they could soon be thrown in the trash. Bay County plans to vote on a new "Leave No Trace" ordinance to combat the problem.

Bay County Commissioner Mike Thomas is bringing the issue before the board during the June 5th meeting. He says the county can no longer wait for the issue to resolve itself.

Beach-goers are leaving umbrellas, tents, and chairs behind on the beach and it's become more than just an eye-sore.

"Saw that we're going to have a worse problem this year , and if we didn't act now we'd just have a summer full of complaints again, and a beach that looks very trashy. We can't afford that," Thomas said.

This isn't the first time the city or county has tried to address the issue. Back in 2009 both planned to draft a blanket ordinance to remove leftover debris, but neither came to a vote. Thomas says they can't wait any longer.

"On the beach there's so many private beaches and so many open beaches that people can get to that the businesses can't keep a hand on it. So, unfortunately it's going to require some legislation I'm afraid."

South Walton officials adopted a similar ordinance in 2010, and they say it's working fine.

Walton Co. TDC Executive Director, Dawn Moliterno, said "We push information out through our lodging partners. We push it out directly to visitors. So I think that it is starting to resonate, and they're starting to understand that if they want to keep those beaches clean then they have to take part in it too."

South Walton resident Colby Hammon said, "When the sun is starting to go down it's clean, it's open. It's obviously different during the day when everybody's here. It's a huge difference."

If Bay County adopts the 'Leave No Trace' ordinance beach cleanup workers, already contracted by the Tourist Development Council, would remove anything left below the Dune Line after sundown.

Thomas added, "If you leave it tonight it's a beer can, or a bag of garbage, and we're going to move it for you."

Panama City Beach Mayor Gayle Oberst said the city hopes to draft an identical ordinance to vote on in the coming weeks.

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