TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) - Florida Gov. Rick Scott is letting people know that a new law doesn't privatize beaches.
Scott signed an executive order Thursday evening making clear that he wants the public to have as much access to Florida beaches as possible.
In Florida, many homeowners own the sand down to the average high water line, though some counties have passed local ordinances that let the public use the beaches for sunbathing, fishing and walking.
A law that went into effect July 1 spells out the process for counties to grant public access to privately owned beaches. But in doing so, it voided an ordinance approved in Walton County in the western Panhandle.
Scott's order tells the state Department of Environmental Protection to be an advocate for beach access and asks state attorneys to "protect Floridians' constitutional right to access the beach."
The Executive Order takes the following action to Protect Public Beach Access:
1. The Governor’s executive order imposes a moratorium on executive state agencies adopting any rule or restriction to inhibit the public’s access to Florida’s beaches, unless there is a clear risk to public safety;
2. The Governor directs the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to serve as an advocate for the public’s right to public beach access. This includes establishing an online reporting tool so Floridians with concerns about beach access can provide input. DEP will compile this input and submit a report to the Florida Legislature and the Governor before the next legislative session. DEP will also serve as a liaison to local governments to ensure the public’s right to access the beach is protected;
3. The Governor urges all local government entities to not adopt any rule or ordinance that would restrict or eliminate the public’s access to Florida’s beaches. He is calling on every county in Florida to not take any action that limits access to beaches; and
4. The Governor urges State Attorneys in Florida to protect Floridians’ constitutional right to access the beach.
“Today, I am ordering the Department of Environmental Protection to do everything in their power to advocate to keep our beaches open and public," Scott said. "Also, I am putting a moratorium on any new state regulation that could inhibit public beach access and also urging local government officials to take similar steps to protect Floridians’ access to the beach. Government’s job is to help solve problems, and in Florida, when there is an issue or confusion surrounding legislation, we take action to address it. Florida is the most beautiful state in the nation. We have hundreds of miles of pristine coastline and we are known for having the best beaches across the world. We absolutely cannot do anything that changes that.”