As most visitors to the area head to the beach on arrival, many do not know that there is a venture by the name of 30A Airboat Adventures operating on the Choctawhatchee Bay.
However, some of the locals who live on the bay, and chose to live there for its quiet and serenity, are upset that there is an airboat business operating there.
Long-time local Mark Breaux presented a petition to Walton County Commissioners Tuesday night bearing the signatures of more than 150 people who live or own property on the bay who are against the operation.
The commercial airboat operation launches from the east end of the 331 bridge.
Breaux said operation of the boat is a violation of the Walton County noise ordinance and seriously affects wildlife in the Bay.
"The eagles are gone and the redwing blackbirds are not nesting there any more," Breaux said. "More than one fisherman has been fishing in the bay and the airboat comes by and then, no fish. This is being billed as eco tourism, but it is not. In the petition we request a ban on commercial airboat operations."
However, County Attorney Sidney Noyes told commissioners that the State legislature has pre-empted a blanket ban on such operations in a specific area and it may not be allowed.
"We might can control days and hours of operations, though," she said. "I can research. But any order adopted would require a super majority vote of commissioners."
District 3 Commissioner Melanie Nipper noted that if the operation violates code, commissioners could address that.
The tours run roughly every two hours.
Breaux said the noise ordinance states that if you're in your house with the doors and windows closed and it is still disturbing your peace it's a nuisance and it's in violation.
However, Noyes advised that the officer who comes out would have to actually hear the noise.
The owner of 30A Airboat Adventures begins operating at 8 a.m. and continues until dark seven days a week, but last year he began at sunrise, said Breaux.
The operation's owner, Daniel McCurdy, addressed commissioners and said that allegations made in the petition are not true and stated that he has modified the boat to make it quieter.
"It is an environmentally-friendly vehicle on the water. There is one argument and that is the noise, but it is not illegal. I am not breaking the law," he said.
District 5 Commissioner Tony Anderson said that the county needs to find out what rights it has.
"I suggest you try to work with these (residents) and find a way to please them," Anderson said to McCurdy. "When I see people sitting on an airboat and wearing headphones that tells me there is a noise problem."
"Just like on a tractor," retorted McCurdy.
Anderson asked Noyes to find out what the county can do and suggested all involved to see if there is some compromise.
District 1 Commissioner Bill Chapman also asked Noyes to find out the county's approved locations for launching boats, approved hours of operations, rules for use of a commercial boat ramp, and reach out to state and environmental folks and ask if there is a violation due to the airboat going through grassy areas in the bay.
Noyes said she would do the research and bring back what she finds to commissioners.
Commission Chair Cecilia Jones asked McCurdy and Breaux to sit down and see if there is any common ground.
Breaux said they have already done that to no avail.