By DOTTY NIST
A plan brought forward by county staff for Walton County Tourist Development Council (TDC) trucks to continue beach garbage pick-up at some bed tax collector properties has been implemented.
The decision in favor of the new plan to continue with pick-up from these properties took place at the Aug. 14 Walton County Board of County Commissioners (BCC) regular meeting at the South Walton Annex.
There had been a previous BCC decision to discontinue all beach garbage pick-up, effective Aug. 13, on privately-owned property, with written notification sent to affected properties. The service had been provided to bed tax collector properties on the beach on a voluntary basis for decades.
For many years, trash collection has been provided along 20 miles of beach (excluding state park property), with recyclable and compostable paper trash bags used at collection stations.
The written notifications of discontinuing pick-up had come in the wake of attorneys representing beachfront property owners, both individuals and homeowners’ associations, contacting the county to request and/or demand that TDC garbage collection trucks stop traversing their lots. With Walton County on course with efforts to affirm a right by the public to customary use of the beach, the attorneys, whose clients oppose customary use, had indicated they were concerned that Walton County would use garbage collection as evidence of customary use.
However, Walton County Attorney Sidney Noyes had told them that the county would not use beach garbage collection as evidence of customary use.
The decision to discontinue all beach garbage pick-up on privately-owned property had been due to these denials of permission for access, coupled with limited access point existing on the beach. Garbage pick-up from public beach accesses has continued.
Beach garbage pick-up at all bed tax collector properties had been stopped for one day when the commissioners were presented with the new plan at the Aug. 14 BCC meeting. Noyes reported that only about a dozen property owners were continuing to deny access. All were individual property owners, with all the homeowners’ associations having dropped their denials of permission for access.
She told the commissioners that Brian Kellenberger, TDC director of beach operations, and Josh Ervin, TDC beach maintenance manager, had looked at a map of Walton County’s 26 miles of beachfront and had identified areas where TDC crews would be able to continue with trash pick-up without crossing properties for which the owners were continuing to demand that trucks not traverse.
Noyes said that research had indicated that pick-up would be able to continue on all of the west end of the beach, west of Topsail Hill Preserve State Park, with the exception of “certain areas,” along with the section from Seacrest to the Bay County line.
Noyes added that staff would work on identifying additional areas where trash pick-up could be reinstated.
District 5 Commissioner Tony Anderson made a motion to approve continuing beach garbage collection in the areas that the county is legally able to access for garbage collection.
“It’s not that we don’t want to pick up the garbage,” Anderson clarified, explaining that the county could be sued if the garbage trucks cross property for which the owners have demanded that they not access. District 2 Commissioner Cecilia Jones added that employees picking up trash on these properties may be subject to arrest.
Kellenberger pledged to monitor the situation and evaluate where personnel are able to provide this service without crossing property for which the owners are denying access.
Nora Murphy, manager for several gulffront complexes, asked for consideration to be given to removing trash from the curbside in areas where garbage trucks could not go onto the beach. She also asked for a map showing areas where trash pick-up would continue.
Noyes responded that such a map would be put up on the county website.
Anderson’s previous motion was approved with all aye votes from the four commissioners in attendance, setting the stage for the TDC to resume garbage collection in the areas indicated.
Noyes commented at the close of the meeting that, with the approval, it would be possible to pick up about 30 percent of the garbage from privately-owned beach property. Pick-up is to continue at public beach accesses in all sections.
Maps were placed on the county website www.co.walton.fl.us showing in green areas where trash pick-up will continue and in red area where trash will not be picked up from privately-owned property. Three maps are displayed, the first one for the central beaches, the second for the eastern beaches, and the third for the western beaches. Links to the maps follow: https://tinyurl.com/yd5cgthf; https://tinyurl.com/yd3yjcwr; and https://tinyurl.com/ydx86925