SANTA ROSA BEACH, Fla. — A Walton County man says a private property owner called deputies on him two days in a row for sitting on a stretch of sand outside Vizcaya Dune Allen, a gated community on Santa Rosa Beach.
“I have a right to go to the beach. I have a right to sit peacefully and enjoy the beach. Enjoy our beautiful waters. And, I have the right to not be disturbed when I’m not doing anything wrong,” Daniel Uhlfelder said.
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Uhlfelder said he’s gone to that same beach numerous times over the past 18 years and never had a problem. He said the passing of HB 631 allows private property owners to call law enforcement and force people towards the mean high water line.
In both videos, deputies with the Walton County Sheriff’s Office politely worked to find a solution that didn’t end with Uhlfelder getting arrested.
Uhlfelder says he can't believe the deupties even showed up.
“I’m a 45-year-old man who's lived in Florida most of my life,” Uhlfelder said. "I have never been told I have to leave a beach.”
Because of some confusion regarding the interpretation of the law, Florida Gov. Rick Scott issued Executive Order 18-202 urging counties to protect public beach access and directs the Department of Environmental Protection to support the efforts.
“Florida is home to the world’s best beaches," Scott said. "And every Floridian and visitor has the right to fully enjoy our state’s natural resources. Florida beaches belong to all of us, and people from across the world visit Florida because of them – and we are going to keep it that way.”
Uhlfelder said he took a copy of the order with him to the beach on Saturday and Sunday.
“This new order means that some nut job can’t throw you off the beach,” Uhlfelder said. “I don’t have a problem with the law enforcement I have a problem with the law.”
Walton County Sheriff Michael Adkinson, Jr. says his deputies shouldn’t be made out to be the bad guys. They were just enforcing the law.
“It (HB 631) nullified one ordinance in the state of Florida that was the ordinance in Walton County,” Adkinson said.
Adkinson said until the county commissioners can find a solution to the problem, state law supersedes that laws already on the books.
“I understand their passion. The problem is this issue needs to resolve in the court of law or the Florida legislature,” Adkinson said.
When we asked for the governor’s office to clarify the order, and whether Scott would take more action to resolve this issue we were sent this statement:
“It’s the duty of local law enforcement and state attorneys to enforce Florida’s laws. The Governor’s Executive Order takes four clear steps to ensure Florida beaches remain open. We will leave it to local governments to determine how to move forward.”
Law enforcement officials at other popular Florida beach destinations say they are not having issues with private properties owners calling to report people are trespassing on the beach. Most Tampa-area beach towns have passed ordinances making sure the beaches stay open to the public.
“They should call a special session of the legislature to repeal the law, and the governor has that authority to call for a special session to repeal this law. Because this law is, bad law,” Uhlfelder said.