An ordinance or 'educational campaign'? City leaders reluctant to join county crackdown on beach


While the county may be tagging and removing items left overnight along the beaches of Okaloosa Island, some city leaders in Destin are not sure the same concept would work on Destin's beaches.

"I don't know if that's a practical thing to do," Councilman Jim Foreman told The Log. "You are not going to change behavior that easily. Most of the time it's either children, juveniles or one-time visitors."

County Commissioners recently added to regulations in county parks, prohibiting visitor from leaving personal items on the beach between the hours of midnight and 7:30 a.m. The changes affect Okaloosa Island and any Destin beach in unincorporated Okaloosa County, such as James Lee Park, near the Crab Trap. The majority of Destin's beaches are not affected by the ordinance, however.

In part, the ordinance reads "it shall be unlawful for beach chairs, umbrellas, tents, and other personal articles to be on the beach in such a manner that they interfere with beach maintenance, nesting turtles, emergency vehicles, or lifeguard's view of the water."

Jim Trifilio, coastal management coordinator for the county’s Tourist Development Council, told The Log that part of the problem with people leaving their tents and umbrellas on the beach is that it interferes with beach cleaning.

"Our problems with the beach cleaners are worse over there," he said of Destin's beaches, which tend to be more crowded than those on Okaloosa Island. "It's also problematic during turtle season."

Although the county is seeing a reduction in the amount of items left on the beach, Councilman Tuffy Dixon said Destin's beaches pose a different set of circumstances, since there are large portions of private beach in the city.

"I think it would be more of an educational campaign instead of an ordinance, due to the amount of private property," he said. "It would be very difficult to regulate."

If the city were to contemplate a similar ordinance, Councilman Jim Wood said it wouldn't be the first time.

"We've had complaints over the years about people leaving things on the beach," he said. "If we were to do something, we may have to go the same route as the county, but we may not be able to do that now that we have citation authority."

Since the summer season began, lifeguards in Okaloosa County have confiscated roughly 100 tents, according to reports. Items that are not claimed by beachgoers are discarded by the county.

For Trifilio, a similar ordinance in Destin would be a welcomed sight, as it would keep the city and the county on the same page.

"Consistency is key," he said. "Everybody would be playing by the same rules."

But more regulations isn't always the best course of action, according to some city leaders.

"My tendency is to leave it alone, while promoting good behavior," Foreman said. "You can't control everything by an ordinance."