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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Comments are posted from viewers like you and do not always reflect the views of this station.
  • by RW Location: NW FL BEACH FRONT on Apr 25, 2012 at 11:46 AM
    Let us not forget about the personal beach items left overnight and all day on the beach in front of private beach house property: big tents, umbrellas, chairs, coolers, toy’s etc. That allows beach visitors easy stakeout territory to return to the next day. What is the current law, finder’s keepers? Children are swimming while inconsiderate anglers have rods in the sand and hooks in the water every few feet. Parking problems could become an issue also.
  • by Kyle Location: Southport on Apr 25, 2012 at 10:40 AM
    YeeHaw. Me and some of my rowdy friends are going to make a point of having a 3 day campout on their beach in about two weeks! Beer, girls, pick-up trucks, dogs, you name it. Here we come! YeeHaw!!!!!!
  • by Art Location: PC on Apr 25, 2012 at 08:23 AM
    You cannot successfully re-build a beach and leave a portion out of the rebuilding process (unless the property has a very long coast line) or if you protect that area with jetties. Furthermore anytime you put a jetty in an area, one side will build up while the other side will erode. I agree that if someone does claim that the property is their's assess a large payment on their taxes and place a lien. Once a couple people attempt to sell their condo and find they cannot due to the incredible cost of the lien, other future issues similar to this will dissapear.
  • by WC Location: Florida resident on Apr 24, 2012 at 09:30 PM
    Give them their beach but when the first storm washes the beach sand away and the water damages the foundation of their property DO NOT USE MY TAX MONEY TO replace their beach or pay for the repair of their property.
  • by Chad Location: Cottondale on Apr 24, 2012 at 08:35 PM
    This has been going on for years. I can remember back in the 80's condos would try and keep people off the beach saying it was private property.I was always told that it is public beach up to the sand dunes. This what happens when you allow out of state money to come in, they want to enjoy our little piece of heaven, but want it all to themselves.
  • by confused on Apr 24, 2012 at 07:02 PM
    The beachfront property owners need to get off their high horse & realize the beaches are for everyone. It's a natural gift from mother nature. Quit being selfish!
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