On Thursday morning, the Walton County Board of County Commissioners decided to close all public beaches for 30 days.
He says their first step was to educate the beach goers on the new ordinance. “That’s first and foremost. Keep in mind this is a customer service oriented business. We have to let people know there has been a change.” He says, for the most part, people have listened to the deputies patrolling the sands.“They’re not pleased but they understand and they’re complying. That’s what we want. We are looking for voluntary compliance. I want to be clear; we are not dragging people off the beach in handcuffs.” If you choose not to be compliant, you will be handed a misdameanor charge.
“No we would not, typically speaking, take those folks out to jail. We would issue a notice to appear, a summons, things of that nature. The Sheriff’s Office deputies, along with community partners like the South Walton Fire District (SWFD) will be working together to keep individuals off public beaches.
A good sign though, Sheriff Adkinson says local business owners he’s spoken with want to help uphold the closures and hopes the rental property owners do the same.
“We need our vacation rental folks to be honest and tell these folks that the beaches are closed. Do not continue to advertise and fill houses with 20-30 people, come down here and let them take the money. The beach is closed for that standpoint.”
Signs will go up on Friday morning starting at 5:00 a.m. at every public beach access point in the county. Adkinson says their main goal is compliance but the law will be enforced. He also encourages everyone, the only way to get through this pandemic is by doing it as a team. We’ve got to get through this and the only way we’ll get through this working as good neighbors and with cooperation.”
The emergency ordinance is in effect for 30 days however, the commission can revisit the matter at any time. They can also choose to extend it if needed.