The Walton County Tourist Development Council recently altered the language of the county’s beach code. The changes include banning all metal digging tools, prohibiting vendors from storing supplies on the dunes and allowing scuba charter permits.
SANTA ROSA BEACH — With the goal of “creating harmony on the beach,” a local group altered the way Walton County’s beaches are regulated.
Changes include banning all metal digging tools, prohibiting vendors from storing supplies on the dunes and allowing three scuba charter permits, said Brian Kellenberger, director of beach operations.
“We realized that with all the codes we have, people quickly try to figure out a way to get around it,” he said.
With only metal shovels mentioned in the previous code, beachgoers would often bring other metal “digging tools” to the beach, Kellenberger added.
“Since it (said) steel-plated shovels, we (had) to enforce the code as it’s written,” he added.
Past regulations also restricted vendors from storing their supplies on the beach. This led to them just stockpiling gear on the dunes.
“The beach is defined as the area between the toe of the dune and the water’s edge,” he said.
For David Demarest, spokesman for the TDC, the changes will help maintain a healthy peak season. He added that theses days, the group was more focused on attracting “the right visitors,” rather than “a lot of visitors.”
“Our real goal — and most of our marketing budget — is about trying to grow/strengthen our off-peak seasons,” he wrote in an email. “We feel like summer is already busy enough, so really in that season, we’re just trying to make sure that the visitors who come will be the ones who can afford to spend more time in restaurants, shopping or going on guided tours.”
As far as next summer’s scuba charters, Kellenberger said a lottery would determine which businesses will claim the permits.
In the future, selected groups will have the option to renew their contract with the county, or give it up to the lottery.
“It’s an attempt for Walton County to allow a safe and regulated way for people to enjoy all the reefs we have installed off of our beaches,” Kellenberger said.
Looking ahead, the TDC also plans to expand its managed vendor programs to all regional beach accesses in Walton except at Miramar Beach.
In 2019, the program’s pilot year, vendors were only allowed at regional beach accesses in Inlet, Ed Walline and Grayton beaches, Kellenberger said.
“All the codes are written to create an atmosphere on the beach that keeps the chaos down,” he added. “Our municipal codes are adopted or revised to provide for the health and safety of the health and safety of the general public, the health and safety of the marine life as well as (keeping) the beaches clean.”