Tuesday, March 17, 2009
Press Release: Counties & Cities Oppose Beach Access
Tallahassee, Fl (March 13, 2009) – In a state such as Florida that depends so heavily on its beach tourism as an economic engine, the issue of adequate public beach access should be a priority. Surfrider Foundation's eleven Florida chapters are pursuing protection of existing public beach access in the Florida Legislature via House Bill 527 and Senate Bill 488.
The 41 million tourists visiting Florida have the opportunity to experience a multitude of diverse attractions; but Florida's beaches remain one of the most popular attractions. Can you imagine the shock and surprise that unsuspecting visitors and Florida's own residents feel when they travel to the beach with their families only to be threatened with arrests unless they get off of the beach? Imagine the frustration when your neighborhood beach access is closed for over a year to accommodate a hotel or construction. Arrest threats on the beach are on the rise and there has been a sharp decline in the number of beach access points across the state. These issues will persist without clarification of beach access laws.
Sadly, after months of back-bending efforts and good faith negotiating, the Florida Association of Counties and the Florida League of Cities continue to block proposed legislation from being heard by the Florida Legislature.
"Who would have thought that Florida Statute Chapter 161, which deals with much of our regulation of beach management and general coastal protection wouldn't have specific language on beach access," said Larry Hart, former First Coast Surfrider Chapter Chair. "Unfortunately it only contains little pieces of language spread throughout the chapter that are completely ambiguous. It does not actually state protective measures that DEP can go to for guidance or enforcement."
Financial support for Florida's beach management program depends on beach access. The state's matching share of funds to local government projects is proportionate to the number and quality of beach access points. Therefore, the decline in beach access could impact funding for future beach projects. That funding has already been reduced from $30 million to $5 million. In these cash strapped times, local governments should be doing everything they can to protect their best revenue producers, and our beaches rank among our state's greatest economic assets. Apparently, the Florida Association of Counties and the Florida League of Cities do not understand the connection between public beach access, healthy beaches and a healthy economy.
"The only entities responsible for our loss of beach access in this state are our local governments, no one else has this power," said Ericka D'Avanzo, Florida Regional Manager of the Surfrider Foundation. "They cannot have their cake and eat it too."
Surfrider Foundation have built a website to show the related statewide articles, pictures and videos that show these issues first hand and the need for the bill. www.flbeachaccess.blogpspot.com This bill would allow Florida to join the ranks of Texas, California, and Oregon with adequate beach access protection policy.
Call your County Commission, City Council and Legislators TODAY to get them to support this bill!!!