Photo: NWF Daily News

“…Walton County is notifying coastal private property owners that its crews will no longer collect garbage from the beaches at their homes or condominiums.

County Attorney Sidney Noyes told county commissioners Tuesday that enough owners had refused to back off previous requests to keep county vehicles off their land to warrant the decision to halt all garbage collections.

‘Unfortunately, even though some of these individual private property owners have rescinded their requests, others are not willing to, so it looks like we will not be able to continue the garbage collection service on private property,’ Noyes told the board.

Noyes said letters would be sent out Tuesday or Wednesday to inform all owners that as of Aug. 13 they would be responsible for picking up their own beach trash, something Walton’s Tourist Development Council has done for years…

The county’s move is the latest fallout from the July 1 implementation of a new state law. HB 631 wiped out Walton County’s customary use ordinance and gave private beachfront owners the ability to post no trespassing signs on their property and prevent people from accessing dry sand areas there…

Sheriff Michael Adkinson, whose deputies have been called upon regularly since July 1 to mediate property disputes on local beaches, has said consistently his deputies are not going to charge anyone on the beach with criminal trespass.

Nonetheless, Commission Chairman Bill Chapman argued at Tuesday’s meeting that the county couldn’t risk collecting trash on private property for fear an arrest would result.

‘I don’t want to see legal action taken, criminally, by our guys going up and down there and picking up the trash,’ Chapman said. ‘I don’t want guys driving being subjected to arrest by the sheriff because we’ve violated a demand letter.’

..Litigation seems to be on the horizon. Attorney and customary use advocate Steve Uhlfelder warned commissioners Tuesday that by refusing garbage collection the private property owners were strengthening an argument against customary use. He urged them to continue sending crews to pick up trash in defiance of the no trespassing warnings.

‘Don’t go along with it. Go pick up the trash and maintain the beaches, otherwise you will be giving up some legal arguments,’ Uhlfelder said. “I don’t think you should be dictated to’…”

— Tom McLaughlin, nwfDailyNews.com
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