Commissioners Against State Regulations On Shell Island

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BAY COUNTY-- Many locals see Shell Island as a key part of Bay County's identity.

"Shell Island is a jewel and we just wanna keep it as pristine as we can," said Bay County Commissioner Bill Dozier.

Possible state regulations could affect public access to the island.

"The last thing we need out there are more rules, laws, and regulations," said Stephanie Somerset of Friends of Shell Island.

Somerset is dedicated to protecting public access to the island. She says the state is proposing that one-third of the island serve as a bird sanctuary. The state is also looking at extending park rules 150 feet out in the waters surrounding the entire western half of Shell Island.

"People come to Panama City over other destinations just so they can rent a boat, or get a guide and go to Shell Island and enjoy it," said Somerset.

At Tuesday's Bay County Commission meeting, commissioners took a stand against the proposed regulations.

"The less they do out there on Shell Island, leave it pristine, leave it in the shape that it's in the better," Dozier said.

The state asked the county if they'd consider giving up the roads they own on the island. Commissioners instructed staff to write a letter to the state telling them they're not giving them up.

"If we were to give up the road accesses that the county has plated over the years and has control over, then we wouldn't have any cause for real input other than we could bang our drums a little bit," said Chairman of the Bay County Commission Guy Tunnell.

"They could impose all of their state park rules there and right now they can't because their lots are fragmented by the county roads," Somerset said.

County commissioners all agree, a good thing like Shell Island shouldn't be messed with.

"People care about Shell Island and they look after it and they pick up their trash," said Bay County Commissioner George Gainer. "People are very particular about Shell Island and if the state has designs on it I think they're gonna be met with a lot of opposition."