Commissioner Bill Chapman said it will now be up to the private beach property owners impacted by the county’s decision to end garbage collection at their homes or condominium complexes to remove trash from the beach.

SANTA ROSA BEACH — Walton County made good on its promise Tuesday to stop picking up trash along the beach in areas where private property owners have ordered vehicles not to travel.

County Attorney Sidney Noyes informed Walton’s commissioners at their meeting on the same day that the number of owners still insisting that Tourist Development Council vehicles stay off the white sand areas of their beaches had dropped to about 12.

Noyes said the most recent owner decisions to rescind no trespassing requests had allowed the TDC to map areas where it will continue service.

Trash collection will still occur from the Okaloosa County line east to about Topsail Hill Preserve State Park and from approximately Seacrest Beach east to the Bay County line, Noyes told the commissioners.

Noyes said there are also properties between Topsail Hill and Seacrest Beach where the TDC has determined trash can be picked up without traversing properties that have requested no vehicles be allowed.

“Where we can legally access the garbage we pick up the garbage,” Noyes said.

Commissioners voted to approve the new garbage collection maps Noyes provided for their consideration.

The decision to end garbage collection in some areas is more fallout from the implementation of HB 631, a bill that became law July 1 and eliminated a Walton County Customary Use Ordinance in place since October 2016.

Under the new law, coastal property owners have been given the right to determine who can or cannot traverse the dry sand areas of beach for which they hold deeds.

Attorneys for some of the landowners believe if county vehicles are allowed to continue to travel across private property the county will use that access to further an argument for customary use — the theory that beach property should be open to all as a right passed down through generations.

The county has announced it will hold a meeting Saturday, Sept. 8 to get public input and declare its intention to have a judge rule on whether customary use should apply to the county’s beaches. In its language, HB 631, which directly impacted only Walton County’s existing ordinance, provides the county a path to obtain such a declaration.

County Commissioner Tony Anderson said the private homeowners who requested no county vehicle trespass brought upon themselves what could become a garbage collection crisis.

“It’s not that we don’t want to pick up the garbage. We have been advised by counsel we will be sued,” he said.

“We cannot submit our employees to an uncomfortable situation,” added Commissioner Cecilia Jones.

Commissioner Bill Chapman said it will now be up to the private beach property owners impacted by the county’s decision to end garbage collection at their homes or condominium complexes to remove trash from the beach.

“It’s up to them as far as I’m concerned,” he said.

A TDC representative present told the county that the organization had been working with those owners who will feel an impact on “how to prepare themselves” for the garbage collection stoppage.

Those who allow trash to pile up on their properties will be in violation of county littering ordinances, Noyes told the commission.