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OPINION

LETTER: Business doesn't 'own' beach rights

Northwest Florida Daily News

Why has the Destin City Council allowed a business to take over our public Crystal Beach and engage in intimidation? Walking down the Crystal Beach public entrance you are immediately greeted by their sign stating, “We are happy to share our private beach with you.” What?  

Arriving at 6 a.m. they set up chairs and umbrellas, three rows deep, stretching across the entire public beach and even around the lifeguard station. The only view one has, if not renting from them, is that of huge umbrellas.

Beach umbrellas on an Okaloosa County beach.

They are allowed to take reservations and set up chairs even though guests haven’t arrived. This allows unoccupied chairs to take up vast areas of beach and preventing the public, who are there, from enjoying this space. Are their  guests more important than the general public or local homeowners (taxpayers) trying to enjoy the public beaches?  Shouldn’t the beach be first come, space availability?

After the shock of their beach takeover, we decided we would arrive at 6 a.m. to allow for a better beach view, water access, and ability to keep closer watch on children.  Immediately, an employee ran over and told us to move, saying we could not set up there. They showed us a tire track and said we would have to stay “back there.”  

We explained that we were local homeowners, this was public beach, and we were not moving. They responded with a threat to  call the police. We assume this intimidation works on a lot of  people, but not us. We said please do. 

The police showed up and agreed this was public beach and we did not have to move.  According to them this was the 12th time they had been called out in the past few weeks. They faulted the Destin City Council for allowing the situation.   

I support business and appreciate the benefit of being able to rent chairs, but this business should not be able to operate in the manner they do. I hope the Destin City Council stops allowing this vendor to “own” our beaches. 

Jill Douglass, Destin