Over the weekend, these images were uploaded to a popular Facebook group showing beach chairs from vendors setup along a 2 mile stretch in Destin, FL., west from The Back Porch.
“The first 2 pictures are vendor setups at the water’s edge around 10:30am on Sunday. High tide was at 9:51am.”, said Amber Hill. “Clearly, nowhere near 20ft from mean high tide line and very much blocking the pedestrian row. Walking the beach in Destin is nearly impossible these days and definitely not very pleasant. “
Hill went on to say that she walked the “comparable stretch of beach” on Okaloosa Island earlier this week and noted that it was a completely different experience.
“No vendors blocking the row, no boundary ropes or signs, and everyone sharing the beach peacefully”, she continued.
On Monday morning, Drew Palmer shared these pictures of beach chairs lined up at Silver Shells in Destin.
According to City of Destin officials, they are aware of the current beach chair situation, noting that tide pools are causing some confusion with vendors.
Joey Forgione, Code Compliance Manager for City of Destin, said that two code compliance officers were headed to Silver Shells this morning to review the situation. Upon review, a non-registered citation was issued at Silver Shells for the vendor not being registered. No violation was issued for the placement of chairs.
According to Catherine Card, Public Information Manager for the City of Destin, officers were sent out to The Back Porch over the weekend to follow up on another report of a beach chair violation, but by the time they arrived, the chairs were removed.
The City of Destin noted that before each season starts, beach vendors review and sign an agreement with the city that outlines best practices and what is allowed on the beach.
In a letter written to beach vendors on July 1, 2020, the city stated,
“Please make sure that all of your set-ups are within the 20’ at all times. So far you guys have been doing pretty good with minimal complaints, but in the past couple of days we have been receiving more complaints of violation of the 20’. Please be advised if your set-ups are clearly in violation ie… water touching chairs or the public is clearly forced in the water due to set-ups in the water, officers are authorized to and may issue Citations to gain compliance.”
Referenced in the letter is this regulation:
“Beach vendors shall not block or impede in any manner the right of pedestrian access seaward of a line 20 feet above the mean high water line.”
The battle over beach chairs is a tough one for the city to enforce…here’s why
The problem for Destin, unlike Okaloosa Island, is that Destin’s beaches are the combination of shifting sands and old Erosion Control Lines. This is how legal arguments take place to dispute the “20ft above mean high tide” rule.
See, Okaloosa Island doesn’t have the vendor issues because Okaloosa Island had their beach-front separately dedicated by the military decades ago. This gives the County Commissioners explicit authority to regulate the vendors.
Take Holiday Isle in Destin, for example. The upland private owners have deeds to the water’s edge, which has shifted significantly over the last 75 years. This is why Destin (and Walton County) are having legal problems.
The city of Destin is actively looking at the current ordinance regarding beach vendors to help strengthen it for the future.