DESTIN — The Erosion Control Line is, at best, some sort of invisible line in the sand that determines which half of the beach is public (restored using taxpayer funds) and which half is private (deeded and belonging to beachfront property owners).
The line was mapped by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection before two beach restoration projects in Okaloosa County. Destin and county officials say that line is impossible to determine now with absolute surety without some sort of official survey.
But the city does have a device known as an “RTK,” or “real time kinetic,” device, that acts as a sort of super-powered GPS system with the capability to determine plots on the ECL within a quarter of an inch.
The device could be useful at settling disputes about which sections of the beach are public and where property lines fall.
Cecil Jackson, a drafting CAD technician with Destin, is one of the few people who is trained on how to use the $21,000 device, which looks sort of like a large GPS box attached to a long fiberglass stick. He said it takes him anywhere from five to 10 minutes to plot one point on the nearly six-mile ECL.
On a muggy Thursday morning, Jackson took the device to two points on the beach — the first at the Shores at Crystal Beach access, and the second at James Lee Park, the easternmost access in the city, to demonstrate how the RTK device works and how city officials might be able to use it to gauge where the ECL is located.
“We’re not dealing with straight lines,” he said as he stuck the RTK into the sand at the first point. “This line, for example, goes south-southwest.”
The line fell roughly 30 feet from the water’s edge, and based on where Jackson knew the next point to be, ran diagonally into the water. A line of beach chairs on a roped-off private beach next to the access was precariously close to the line, and Jackson said it was impossible to determine with absolute certainty whether or not the chairs fell south or north of the ECL.
The next spot was at the western edge of James Lee Park. There, the ECL point was determined to be more than halfway up the beach, heading in a direction parallel to the shoreline. The line ran clearly through the beach marked off with ropes and "private" signs, and belonging to a series of beachfront mansions.
Jackson said it wasn’t his job to determine whether or not property owners are in violation of any sort of law or ordinance; it’s simply his job to plot points on the line. The person whose job it is to make such determinations, the city’s land use attorney Kimberly Kopp, declined to answer questions from the Daily News.