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A New Florida Law Could Make Many Beaches in the State Off Limits to the Public

Coastal Living logo Coastal Living 4/11/2018 Marisa Spyker
a group of palm trees on a beach © Provided by TIME Inc.

The Sunshine State’s beaches are on a lot of people’s minds lately—but this time, they’re not simply a part of vacation daydreams. They’re a matter of public debate.

That’s because, as of July 1, a new law could restrict general access to beaches currently under private ownership. The law, which was passed last month, allows private land owners (including condos and hotels) to decide whether or not they want to allow public access from the high tide line up.

The move is a controversial one (as evidenced by a petition that’s already been made to repeal the law), as 60 percent of Florida’s 663 miles of beaches are privately owned.

“Beaches are an integral part of Florida’s tourism and should be open to the public for all to enjoy,” reads the petition, which has more than 30,000 signatures from Floridians as well as tourists from as far away as Spain and the United Kingdom.

In the past, local governments have been able to pass ordinances that allow the public onto private beaches that have historically been open to all. Under the new law, local governments would need to petition a judge for that to happen. The law does allow counties and cities with public access ordinances passed before 2016 to keep them, according to the Miami New Times. Supporters say the goal isn't to keep people off many of Florida's beaches, but to streamline the lengthy legal process around property rights.

What will be the fate of Florida’s private beaches? Regardless of which way the tide turns, there are two parts of every beach that will always remain state-owned, according to the law: the “wet” sand below the high tideline and the protected dunes (just be sure not to walk on those).


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