- To get a bunch of people we love in a single issue.
- To inspire hateful debate on social media.
- Readers’ attention spans tend to favor shorter pieces these days.
- Are you bored yet?
Love, Editor Manson
YOUR THOUGHTS AND COMMENTS
I enjoy reading (Charles Morgan’s) columns in the Beachcomber (“It’s Not Augusta National,” April 11-24 issue). I respect and generally agree with your values and your politics.
I am a beachfront property owner in Walton County. I don’t disagree with your view that that beachfront property is a unique form of ownership and that owners are “burdened.” I wasn’t aware of the burden when I purchased the property in 1990, and in truth for the first 25 years, the burden wasn’t a burden; people came to the beach from all over, and somehow we all survived.
However, the world has changed. Just as you bemoan the effect that greed and development run amok have had on Destin, we are obliged to recognize a similar effect on Walton County beaches, attributable in large part to the same villains.
I continue to believe that the public, be they from the north side of 30A or from Kansas, should have access to the beaches. At the same time, the rights of the beachfront property owners cannot be abrogated. Beachfront property owners have the right to enjoy their property. Having two or three gazebo/tents, each with overflowing chairs, making getting to the water difficult, football/volleyball games strung out across the beach prohibiting sitting, unfilled holes which are dangerous to people and animals and detrimental to the beach itself are all inappropriate limitations on owners’ enjoyment.
Unfortunately, we are where we are, and we cannot go back to a more genteel time.
As you have said repeatedly, Destin will never again be a cozy fishing village, and Walton County beaches will never be able to accommodate visitors as they did in the past. To allow visitors and beachfront property owners to coexist, rational beach rules, supported and reinforced by education and enforcement, are necessary.
If done correctly, I believe the above recommendation would be acceptable to most and might quiet the crazies on both sides of this issue, including the people mentioned in your article living in communities without access for the public.
– William Higgins
In his rambling diatribe about customary use, Charles Morgan III, owner of Harbor Docks restaurant, selectively quotes the law, praises a feckless Walton County Commissioner with zero public service experience as a “throwback to the old days,” likens having beachfront property to buying a house next to an airport runway, and uses biblical quotes to imply God must be on the side of the customary use folks.
Morgan also had a cartoonist slander former Governor Mike Huckabee for placing a “no trespassing” sign on his beachfront property. Morgan must not be interested in knowing Huckabee never did that.
Morgan wants readers to believe there’s a 50-year legal precedent that gives the public access to all Florida beaches. If so, why did the state of Florida sell Panhandle beaches to private parties? Morgan must believe the state gave legal title to people when it didn’t have the authority to do so.
Morgan failed to mention that the Florida legislature passed HB 631 last year, which (in spite of how many people have not read it or have misread it) states that counties cannot unilaterally seize private property for public use. HB 631 says that right is reserved for only the courts. But people like Morgan who rant about “the beaches belong to everybody” don’t want the legal system to address the issue. They want justice by shouting and public opinion.
Morgan is right about one thing. The beaches should belong to everyone. The state of Florida should never have sold the beaches years ago in an effort to populate the barren Panhandle. But it’s too late to unfry that egg. Now Walton County, in spite of its tired and inadequate infrastructure, has four million visitors a year who pump 3.5 billion dollars into the local economy, so commissioners want every grain of sand they can find in order to keep the bed taxes rolling in.
Mr. Morgan, there is a solution that will alleviate your angst, and it doesn’t involve stealing private property.
Walton County, perhaps with help from the folks in Tallahassee, can get out the checkbook and buy back the beaches that were sold years ago. The Fifth Amendment of our Constitution prescribes the legal principle of eminent domain, which means government can’t seize private property without just compensation. Do you really want government to have the right to take away private property just because it wants to?
Mr. Morgan, it’s time to rally your pals for another meeting on May Day Island. It may not have a Harbor Docks restaurant, but it does have a Basin Bayou Social Club.
– Art Miller
Editor’s Note: The Mike Huckabee cartoon Mr. Miller refers to did not appear in the magazine. I might have shared something by the excellent Pensacola News Journal cartoonist Andy Marlette on our Facebook page, or maybe it was my own page.