Eglin requires permit for beachgoers

Beach at the foot of the Destin Bridge now requires permit

Annie Blanks | 315-4450 | @DestinLogAnnie |
Signs were installed along the beach access at the foot of the Destin bridge alerting visitors that they need to acquire a free beach permit from Eglin Air Force Base. [ANNIE BLANKS/THE LOG]

Beachgoers hoping to soak up the sun on the beach at the foot of the Destin bridge will now have to have a permit to do so, according to officials with Eglin Air Force Base.

Signs were installed at the beach in October 2016 alerting visitors that they must acquire a free beach permit from The beach, officially called the Santa Rosa Island beach, is part of the 284,000 acres of Eglin property that is open to the public, said Chris Johansen, Eglin Outdoor Recreation Program Manager.

“Along with the free beach permit, there’s a video that’s required to watch, and it just talks about the ecosystem of the beach and the dunes,” Johansen said. “It tells people to be careful not to walk on the dunes, education about sea turtles and other plants and animals down on the beach, including the beach mice, shore birds and sea oats. (The video) is under 5 minutes.”

Beach permits are required at each of the seven Eglin beach access points between the Destin bridge and Beasley Park. Eglin spokesman Mike Spaits said the decision to require permits at the beach was made to protect the environment and ensure the safety of guests at the beach.

“The only area (of Eglin property) that has not charged any fees is the access points to the beaches …the folks who are using it may not know what the standards are and that it still is federal property,” Spaits said. “So we want to make sure that they understand what the safety and the environmental rules are, and that they are abiding by those rules.”

Johansen said there will be a “grace period” until October 2017 so beachgoers can get used to the rules. After October, those rules will begin to be enforced. Those who go on the beach without proper permits face a $65 fine and a six-month suspension from recreating on any Eglin property.

The permit rule also applies to boaters who pull up to the beach.

Johansen stressed that the permit requirement is for educational purposes first and foremost.

“A lot of the people at the Destin bridge beach are local, but a lot are out-of-towners, too,” he said. “The concept behind this was somebody who’s on vacation from, say (from) Ohio, may not be as aware of the importance of the ecosystem of a sand dune as somebody who lives in Destin.”