10 • 25 • 2016
Walton County Customary Use Ordinance
Protect public beach access in the Emerald Coast.
As part of the Surfrider Foundation Emerald Coast Chapter's broader beach access campaign, the Chapter has supported the public's continued right to access Walton County's dry sand beaches for recreational uses, as it has for generations. Chapter members voiced their support at County workshops, and recent County Commission meetings, for the adoption of a Customary Use ordinance, recognizing the public's common law right to use the County's beaches. In October, the County adopted an ordinance, marking a powerful victory for public beach access in this ongoing campaign. The ordinance is slated to go into effect in April 2017, and may be revised and improved upon by a proposed “Customary Use Committee” to be formed by the County, in the coming months. As adopted, the ordinance acknowledges the public's right to use Walton County's dry sand beaches for recreation based on customary use, but provides for a 15 foot buffer where the public may not go, within 15 feet of any habitable structures or toe of the dune, whichever is more seaward. While the ordinance does not create any new rights, it is important in that it recognizes and protects the public's existing right to access the dry beaches of Walton County, which the public has established through not just decades - but hundreds of years of use - dating back to use by native Americans in 3,000 B.C. and beyond.