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Eglin Air Force Base to enforce Santa Rosa Island ‘Closed Test Area’ trespass violations

The 96th Security Forces Squadron at Eglin Air Force Base is stepping up patrols to enforce trespass violations on the Santa Rosa Island Closed Test Area. The closed test area, […]

The 96th Security Forces Squadron at Eglin Air Force Base is stepping up patrols to enforce trespass violations on the Santa Rosa Island Closed Test Area.

  • Trespassers caught entering the restricted area by land or water will face a $65 fine for each infraction.

The closed test area, which extends from the El Matador Condominiums in Fort Walton Beach to Navarre Beach, is an active military range with various hazards. Signs and barriers are posted to clearly identify the restricted area and keep unauthorized individuals out.

“It’s not safe for people to ignore the signs and barriers put in place to keep them out of the closed test area,” said Maj. Andrew McFee, 96th SFS commander. “People put themselves at risk every time they walk past a ‘no trespass’ sign. This area is an active test range with all the associated hazards.”

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)

In addition to the safety risks, trespassers also pose a threat to the diverse natural communities and endangered plant and animal species that inhabit the area. The 96th Civil Engineer Group Environmental Management branch works diligently to protect these fragile habitats.

“Eglin’s natural resources office works hard to protect the environment in our closed test areas,” said Eric Sculthorpe, 96th Civil Engineer Group Environmental Management branch chief. “By looking for a good place to set up for a day at the beach, people not only put themselves at risk, but could end up damaging fragile habitats critical to many plant and animal species.”

The increased patrols by the 96th Security Forces Squadron aim to deter trespassers and ensure the safety of both individuals and the environment on the Santa Rosa Island Closed Test Area.

3 Responses

  1. Many will disagree but I think this is over reach by Eglin. I see the comments that if it is opened to the public it would get trashed; I agree. However a few things: In 40 years of walking the Eastern portion I’ve never seen any activity beachside from the Matador west up to what I call “Stonehenge” (the remains of a wall) about a mile to the west. I have seen activity across from Hurlburt. Last year the Base commander said we can go to Matterhorn or Princess Beach. True. However getting back onto 98 and back to Fort Walton is a harrowing and dangerous experience. The County beaches on Okaloosa Island are crowded with umbrellas and beach chairs with hardly a space for the locals. Also for folks fishing they shouldn’t be fishing with swimmers close by. So… what I would propose for the Commander is issue permits to people to use between ½ and 1 mile of the beach from the West and East borders; similar to the outdoor rec permits but more stringent: fines if found on the dunes, fines if past the permitted boundary, fines if on this portion without a permit. It seems the Air Force is patrolling the area anyways so they can enforce this approach. And since they are patrolling the perimeters they and put a hard stop closed if there is testing. The taxpayers are the actual owners of this property – DoD manages it. I’ve been walking this pristine and serene portion of the Island for 40 years and it was a God send to be able to enjoy peace and quiet, raw nature, and not have to deal with 98 East of Santa Rosa Blvd.

  2. Does a violation include pulling a boat up to the beach? Walking along the shoreline? Are there different rules for different areas within the closed section of Santa Rosa Island? I am a native of FWB (and I’m old!), and how these rules get enforced seems to change periodically. I have been verbally reprimanded and threatened with fines and impoundment if my boat while sitting in my boat that was resting at the beach edge. The only signs in the area, I checked, were the small ones saying this was an Air Force installation. I was under the impression that in these areas, the shoreline was ok.

  3. Being old is irrelevant. No means “no”; not maybe. Find another spot to land your boat and obey the rules.

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