Even as the county is suing 1,194 property owners to have the beaches behind their homes declared public, homeowners in the Seagrove Second Addition subdivision want to force Walton County to relinquish its hold on the sugar white sand behind their residences.

SEAGROVE BEACH — Adding a new twist to an all-too-familiar tale, a group of coastal residents has laid claim to a section of Walton County beach the county calls its own.

Even as the county is suing 1,194 property owners to have the beaches behind their homes declared public, homeowners in the Seagrove Second Addition subdivision want to force Walton County to relinquish its hold on the sugar white sand behind their residences.

The section of beach in question, a suit filed Jan. 29 in Federal Court says, was designated in 1949 by property owner C.H. McGee as a “swimming park.”

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It was dedicated, as such, to the public, along with the neighborhood’s streets and roads.

Attorneys for the homeowners claim that the paperwork filed by McGee and his wife was not properly executed and therefore “there was never an offer of dedication to Walton County or the public by the owners.”

Even if the legal documents had been filled out properly, the suit says, Walton County rejected the dedication.

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Nonetheless, the county “recently claimed ownership and/or control” of the “swimming park,” the suit states. It has begun allowing vendors to conduct commercial business activity behind the homes of the residents who have filed suit.

The McGees “intended that the swimming park would be utilized for swimming as opposed to other uses or activities related to beachfront property,” the suit claims.

Commercial activities, which include beach chair and umbrella rentals along with activities like bonfire parties and weddings “have excluded plaintiffs and others from large sections of the swimming park,” the suit states.

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The residents of the Seagrove subdivision suing Walton County, none of whom reside full-time locally, are asking the Federal Court to declare them to be the legal owners of the beaches behind their homes.

The suit claims the beachfront owners “have legal title to the property lying between their respective lots and the Gulf of Mexico.”

It concedes, however, the owners are bound to share the swimming park with “other owners of lots in Seagrove Second Addition.”

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Walton County is asking County Judge David Green to declare its 26 miles of coastline public by virtue of customary use, the theory that mankind has enjoyed the area’s beaches for time immemorial.

The federal lawsuit suit calls for the court to tell Walton County it has no right to allow beach vendor zones in the swimming park area, and that the county has no right to permit commercial activities in the park.

Hundreds of private beach property owners have intervened in the county’s customary use lawsuit claiming the county is trying to subvert their private property rights.

Many have installed fencing or posted no trespassing signs and forbidden county work crews to access the beaches behind their homes to pick up trash or conduct any type of commercial activity.