It is a story about a 12 year old boy who moved to Seagrove Beach in 1993 on to a little dirt road called Campbell St. from a grassy suburb outside San Antonio, Texas. That little boy was me. My parents and I pulled up stakes and moved to the beach with a hardly a plan other than to enjoy life to it’s fullest on the sandy shores of South Walton. I was hardly a willing participant. I didn’t like the feel of the sand, nor the sting of the salt water in my eyes, or the blistering heat of the summer sun. But over time, I came to love it. I wandered all over the beach freely. I built sand castles, learned to fish from the water’s edge, and even learned to surf. The beach was a place to enjoy freely, with very little cares. I shared the beach with thousands of people over the years, without a second thought about who “owned the beach.” For the past 25 years, my beach access was at the end of the road across an easement between two condominiums. It is currently maintained by the county as a public access.
On August 30, 2018, on my evening walk with my dog, I encountered a no trespassing sign immediately at the base of the stairs. The beach I have enjoyed for 25 years is no longer one my gulf front neighbors wish to share. The ironic thing about it is that the sandy shoreline in front of both buildings at the base of my access belonged to no one until 2015, when the condos obtained it through a process called “suing for quiet title” They paid no taxes on this property, and still do not today as the property appraiser says it has no value since it is unbuildable. They also paid nothing for the sandy portion of this beach but now want to exclude me and my neighbors from enjoying as we have freely for decades. For hundreds of yards in either direction the sandy portion of the beach is deemed “private”. As I walk my dog along the shores I grew up on, I am now a criminal. My 70 year old mother, who as I am writing this cannot stop crying, wished to spend her remaining years going to the beach she loves and taking an occasional swim, is also a criminal too.
To those Gulf front owners who wish to exclude others from the sand in front of their properties, I implore you to think about what you are doing to your neighbors and your community. Think about what you are doing to the workers who serve your food, clean your pools, and take care of you when you are sick. Think about those tourists who are sitting on our shores and taking long walks along the beach for the first time just as you had at one time. You are doing damage beyond repair to their lives. Look them in the eye next time you are out. They are just like you. They were brought to the beach by an unseen force. To recreate, to heal, to connect. I think if you will look into the hearts of those you are hurting, you will see that your issue is not with us, or them. You are the most fortunate among us. Through life’s trials and tribulations, you have obtained the ultimate prize, a front row seat to one of God’s greatest shows. Please use your fortune for good, and realize that we are all essentially the same. It’s time to stop the needless suffering, and if you act now and take down these signs, we can begin to live again as one people on the shores of South Walton. Use your good fortune to build a longer table, not a higher fence. And remember, “If you are lucky enough to live at the beach, you are lucky enough.”
(Published with author's permission.)