Trouble in paradise: Siesta Key homeowners are blocking beach access
A barricade attempting to block public beach access in Siesta Key is stirring up trouble.
Visitors to the public beach on Shell Road are finding boulders and ropes blocking off part of the beach and a sign that reads, “No trespassing.”
Christina Holmes, a resident of Sarasota County who’s been frequenting Shell Road Beach for decades, said it’s the first time anyone has tried to prevent access on her favorite beach.
“It's protected by the constitution and Florida statute, so I don't understand why this is different,” Holmes said. “We shouldn't be arrested for doing what's legal and what's a legally protected right under the Florida constitution. I'm not a lawyer, but seems like the law is pretty clear about it.”
Multiple beachgoers said they have been sprayed by the homeowners’ sprinklers while sitting at the beach, at the water’s edge.
“The sprinklers don't even spray the plants that are in front of the sprinklers,” Holmes said. “They’re literally there to spray people on the beach.”
Video footage shows deputies from the Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office instructing beachgoers not to cross the barricade. The sheriff’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
In 2018, then-Governor Rick Scott signed House Bill 631, which introduced radical changes to laws regarding public beach access, giving more power to waterfront property owners and less to local governments.
It gave beachfront property owners the right eject people from "their" part of the beach and virtually took away the right of local governments to pass their own laws that protect public use of privately owned beaches.
However, the Florida Constitution protects public access to any beach seaward of the high-tide line. That’s any part of a beach that regularly gets wet from the rising tide.
The boulders and stakes at 3935 Shell Road stretch into the water.
“The beaches and public beach accesses are open to the public to enjoy,” said Beaches and Water Access Manager Cindy Turner in a statement. “Siesta Public Beach, Turtle Beach and the 13 Siesta public beach accesses are not private. However, there are also private beaches/properties along Siesta Key adjacent to public beach accesses.”
“Private property owners cannot block access to public beach accesses/property,” Turner said in the statement.
Greg and Michelle Olson bought the property 3935 Shell Road in 2017 for $3.5 million. It previously sold for $4 million in 2008.
The Olsons declined to speak to a Herald-Tribune reporter who buzzed their doorbell intercom. They could not be reached by phone.
A Sarasota County spokeswoman said additional information on the issue will be released Monday.
This is a developing story.