“I’ve never been asked to leave a beach. I thought I was in the twilight zone.”
– Daniel Uhlfelder, after being told by sheriff’s deputies he was trespassing on the beach in Walton County
At the behest of powerful property owners and their hired-gun lobbyists, this past session the Legislature passed and Gov. Scott signed House Bill 631, which allows some waterfront homeowners to label beachgoers as trespassers and have them kicked off the beach. Now, a storm of controversy has erupted around the new law, which upends Florida’s traditional “customary-use” rule allowing the public to access private beaches throughout the state.
Walton County has become the test case for this new law that effectively turns portions of Florida’s coastline into private-access only beaches. In 2016, Walton County passed a customary-use ordinance. But HB 631 was specifically written to nullify Walton County’s rule (municipal customary-use ordinances in place before 2016 are unaffected by the new law).
Now, concerned Floridians, local businesses and coastal communities are fighting back, lawsuits are flying and local law enforcement is caught in the middle of it all. In response, Gov. Scott issued an executive order that encourages local communities to preserve beach access, but Scott’s order serves only as election year window dressing, and does absolutely nothing to address the problem he created by signing this bill into law.
Gov. Scott has consistently put the interests of powerful special interests above those of everyday Floridians, and his beach access law is just the latest example. Thanks for taking action urging our state lawmakers to repeal this terrible law.