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30A "Customary Use" Beach Controversy

For the past two years there has been a lot of controversy in Walton County over who owns the beach and who has the right to use it. I would like to provide my perspective. When the friendliness between local residents and beachfront owners began to unravel a few years ago the conflict seemed to stem from the beach chair companies arriving early every morning and filling the public beaches with rental chairs. Many people (including me and a lot of local residents) prefer to provide our own chairs but there was no room on the public beaches. So beach goers began setting up in front of private homes along with their big tent awnings, boom boxes, alcohol, etc. The beachfront owners pushed back but instead of the county commissioners controlling the beach chair rental companies (who pay no concession fees) they simply declared that the beaches of Walton county had always been used by everyone so, therefore, "customary use" would prevail and everyone could use any beach area. The Florida legislature got involved and now the whole issue is going to decided by the courts. Meanwhile, a number of beachfront owners have erected signs and ropes indicating that visitors may walk on the wet sand but may not set up chairs, etc. on the property in front of their homes.

All of that being said, CeCe's Beach House and Palms of Dune Allen have pretty much avoided the entire issue. There are public beach accesses on each side of the beach owned by the condominium complex but there is no parking so guests are limited to walking in. Southern Resort Beach Services sets up chairs every morning on the waterfront of the condominium but Billy, the attendant, leaves plenty of room on the front row for guests who wish to bring their own. And, since our complex is so small and a number of owners do not live there full time nor rent their units, beachfront access is never an issue when you are a guest at Cece's Beach House.

The "crowded" beach in front of CeCe's Beach House!

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