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Eglin Air Force Base Commander issues warning against trespassing on Closed Test Areas, beach access

On Wednesday, March 15, 2023, Brig. Gen. Jeff Geraghty, the new commander of the 96th Test Wing at Eglin Air Force Base, issued an update regarding closed test areas and […]

Due to military testing and training on the Eglin reservation, the beach on Santa Rosa Island from Fort Walton Beach to Navarre Beach is closed to all public access. (U.S. Air Force photo/Ilka Cole)

On Wednesday, March 15, 2023, Brig. Gen. Jeff Geraghty, the new commander of the 96th Test Wing at Eglin Air Force Base, issued an update regarding closed test areas and beach access.

In his news release, Gen. Geraghty reiterated the importance of Eglin Air Force Base, which spans three counties and is one of 13 major range and test facility bases in the Department of Defense. The test areas within Eglin’s borders provide a center of development, testing, and deployment of lethal air power to support essential Department of Defense missions. 

  • Many of these areas also provide refuge for a wide range of natural communities and 106 rare and endangered plant and animal species, as well as a wealth of Cultural Resources dating back thousands of years.

“Since returning here and taking command of the 96th Test Wing in June, I’m reminded of just how special this area is and how fortunate we are to live and work in such a military-friendly community,” he wrote.

Eglin is also host to many hazardous activities that include training missions conducted by Air Force Special Operations Command, the U.S. Army’s 6th Ranger Training Battalion and 7th Special Forces Group, as well as operators from every branch of service.

Due to military testing and training on the Eglin reservation, the beach on Santa Rosa Island from Fort Walton Beach to Navarre Beach is closed to all public access. (U.S. Air Force photo/Ilka Cole)

According to the General, the Closed Test Areas on Santa Rosa Island that stretch west of the El Matador Condominiums all the way to Navarre Beach have become an “easy target for trespassers” who want to take advantage of the secluded charm of Eglin’s closed beaches. 

Gen. Geraghty stated that despite the abundance of warning signs in place instructing beachgoers to stay out of Air Force Closed Areas, an unacceptable level of trespassers are ignoring the signage and causing mission impacts, damaging fragile habitats critical to many species.

“Due to unauthorized activities, and to preserve and protect this national asset on the Eglin reservation, our team has installed barriers and additional signage on the east and west sides of Eglin’s Santa Rosa Island Closed Areas to further discourage trespassing,” said Geraghty. “Additionally, our security forces will increase patrols in these areas and will begin issuing trespass citations to those who continue to violate our Closed Test Areas.”

The East Pass Beach Area, the West Pass Beach and parking areas on the west end of Marler Bridge in Destin are closed to all forms of public access. (U.S. Air Force photo/Ilka Cole)

Furthermore, the security forces, with assistance from local and state law enforcement, will monitor the Santa Rosa Sound and cite individuals/boaters who are beaching and trespassing on the north side of the island. 

  • Eglin maintains four other public beach access points on the island, including Eglin Beach Club, the Matterhorn, Princess Beach, and the old Airman’s Beach Club. Each of these areas is available to beachgoers with a free permit.

The popular East Pass Beach Area near the Destin bridge has been closed since May 2020 due to illegal commercial activity, trash dumping, and parking issues. The previous 96th Test Wing Commander, Brig. Gen. Scott Cain, closed the area to ensure the safety of the beachgoers and prevent any further illegal activity from happening on federal property.

According to details at the time, the closure was necessary because of the “incompatible and unsafe blend of beach goers and moving vessels along the shoreline, illegal and unsafe vehicular traffic, lack of adequate parking control, illegal commercial activity taking place by water-bound vendors, and inability to fund adequate solutions to safety and liability issues.”

Initially, cones were placed along the road, but they were ineffective in stopping beachgoers from accessing the area, according to Eglin. 

  • Concrete barriers and fencing were then added, and despite numerous conversations between the city of Destin, Okaloosa County, and the previous commander, the barricades and fencing at the East Pass Beach access remained in place.
The East Pass Beach Area, the West Pass Beach and parking areas on the west end of Marler Bridge in Destin are closed to all forms of public access. (U.S. Air Force photo/Ilka Cole)

“We will continue to search for appropriate solutions to improve safety and eliminate unauthorized trespassing on federal property,” Geraghty wrote. “As we determine these solutions, we will communicate them with the community to avoid any confusion in the future.”

4 Responses

  1. Once again the POS government taking our freedoms away one by one. Now we can’t even walk along the beach from now until eternity. Shame on this piece of shit commander for setting a precedent that will never go away. No more peaceful beaches to walk along! U.S. citizens are not “trespassers” on the beach that they own. What foolish tyrannical thing to say. Absolute disgrace to the American public.

  2. My husband and I were celebrating our 40th anniversary. On our last day we took a walk down the beach and unknowingly went on gov’t property. We turned to go back toward our condo and were approached by 4 young people in a military vehicle. We were walking on the shore and did not see the signs up on the dunes or a fence or anything. We are law abiding citizens, but feel we were treated like criminals. Four young military personnel, who did not identify themselves, zipped up in a van behind us. We all talked for a few minutes then they asked for our names saying they had to turn in “Reports” on anything they do. Never said they were writing tickets for both of us at $85 each. But did tell us that if we were swimming 20 feet off shore we would not receive a ticket. What??? As Native American Indigenous we find it sarcastically amusing that our nation and land was stolen by the white man who now writes tickets to us for walking down a beach. There were many white people walking in this restricted area, even taking family portraits, but we were the only ones who received tickets.

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Community Comments

“Great news. Thank you NPD. Walgreens also collects unwanted drugs but sometimes not available.”
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“I think this plan would be great for this community. Changing with the times bringing economic growth. Jobs. Improvement housing and business opportunities. Vibrancy to the community.”
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“The affordable housing in that area near wonderful schools and senior assisted living condominiums would be great. For the military to even think of leasing or selling land for these...”
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“The greedy s.o.b.s have already screwed up the whole town.i never dreamed that it would be the way it is. It's a damn shame!!!”
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“All the greedy sobs already screwed up the whole town . I was raised here as kid and never dreamed this kind of crap would happen to this place. It's...”
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“BS Affordable Housing My A$$! DO NOT DO IT Gen Geraghty! Keep Eglin Fed Owned and Controlled! Seriously they think they can get or even afford Poquito Bayou and Eglin...”
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“They think that Eglin AFB is going to give up there golf course!!!! They are so delusional!!”
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“Unreal. There is no room for more people here. Dirtbags and POS people are gonna move in and ruin there great area. People are so greedy it is unreal. Clearly...”
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