By Annie Blanks
DUNE ALLEN BEACH — The Turgeon family from New Orleans was sitting on the beach on a hot Tuesday morning watching their young children play in the sand, when they were approached by a Walton County sheriff’s deputy.
The deputy had been called by homeowners in Vizcaya, a multimillion dollar gated beachfront community, who wanted to enforce trespassing laws on the beach in front of their homes.
“He was nice about it,” Leah Turgeon said as she began packing up her things. “But it’s definitely a hassle. Now we have to move all of our stuff.”
The Turgeon family, who said they were confused about signage and were unaware of where the “public” beach met the “private,” was one of many caught in the crosshairs of the new customary use law that went into effect July 1. The law, called House Bill 631, essentially voids Walton County’s customary use ordinance and allows private property owners the right to claim the beach in front of their homes as private property, up to the mean high water mark, or wet sand.
Homeowners in the Vizcaya neighborhood have been perhaps the most vocal supporters of the new law in Walton County, and Bill Hackmeyer, a property owner and Homeowners Association president, is a big part of the reason why.