Walton County private beach trash services to end August 13th
In early July, several Gulf-front property owners issued letters to Walton County officials to stay off their beach.
Now, concerns over beach trash pickup and many other services are piling up on the South Walton beaches.
"With receiving letters of private property owners demanding [we] cease and desists our beach maintenance and code enforcement activities, mainly traversing the property. It has affected other property owners as well," Beach Operations Director Brian Kellenberger said.
After taking the dispute to county commissioners, the board took time to review their options and have decided end services to private property owners.
"We have limited drive-on points and were also compromised by our coastal dune lake outfalls. And so if we can't traverse certain properties then we can't get all the way down the beach to service the other properties," Kellenberger said. "Right now we're still collecting garbage as we have been so we haven't seen the change and we're hoping that the amount of time we're given is sufficient for the people who are affected to be able to pick up that function. I do predict we'll start to see more garbage piled up on the beach."
While many owners are claiming they will take on the responsibility, Kellenberger said it may be more than they can handle.
"About 48 percent of the private property garbage that we collect now [will be left on the beach] and that makes up about 30 percent of the total garbage. So it's a lot of garbage. Last year we collected 72,000 bags of garbage and so the math on that is 25,000-24,000 bags of garbage so it's a lot of garbage to manage," Kellenberger said. "Seventy-two thousand bags equates to almost 600 tons of garbage. If you wanted to think about that as volume wise, it would fill up your average high school gymnasium wall to wall, floor to ceiling."
While some owners have reconsidered their actions, officials say others have not.
"They have explanations of why they did not. It surrounds private property rights and we're respectful of that. We just want to make sure everybody understand the impact to the beaches of Walton County," Kellenberger pointed out.
Now, county officials say they are worried about who will clean up the mess.
"It will change the way we do it on our neighborhood beach accesses. Regional beach accesses will still be collected the same way. You'll find garbage collection stations on the beach, you'll find them at the top of the boardwalk. At our neighborhood beach accesses will relocate those from the beach to the top of the boardwalk and service this from the street," Kellenberger explained. "Less efficiency means you have to have more resources. And more resources, like I said, more vehicles, maybe a different type of vehicle, more people because we're going to be walking more on both sides of the house: code enforcement and beach maintenance. So losing efficiency often means you have to gain more resources."
Beach management officials said unless a compromise can be made, services will stop as of August 13th.
"Our beaches have historically been known for being very clean because we've offered this service for 35 years and now I predict we won't be known for that and it will affect the people who want to come here. We'll have to see what happens on that," Kellenberger added.
Kellenberger said they're trying to help those affected find alternative services.