Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Which Accesses Require Clearing? Beach Walkovers to Be Case-by-Case

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Which Accesses Require Clearing? Beach Walkovers to Be Case-by-Case

Article excerpt

Byline: Christina Abel

St. Johns County will decide, starting in October, which beachfront property owners must change their landscaping to clear the public's access to the beach in Ponte Vedra Beach and throughout the county.

The commission will decide on a "case-by-case basis" which beach access paths need to be cleared of fences, unapproved signs and vegetation, such as palm trees and hedges, said County Commissioner Bruce Maguire, who represents the Ponte Vedra Beach area.

If landowners have landscaping that blocks most or all of the path, they would have to remove the obstruction. If they don't comply, the county will remove it and might charge a fee, Maguire said.

"If we determine that it has to go, it will definitely go," Maguire said. "If they don't do it, we will do it and we have the authority to do it."

The decision to clear the beach access will depend on how far the plants or obstacles intrude onto the path.

For example, if a tree or hedge significantly blocks a beach access, the homeowner would be given about six months, or until March, to remove all or part of the vegetation. In most cases, however, the county will try to work around existing vegetation and even add some of its own to make the paths accessible and aesthetically pleasing, Maguire said.

St. Johns County owns 171 beach access paths or easements along the coast. The county plans to convert 65 of them, 10 of which are in Ponte Vedra Beach, into dune walkovers.

Some of the beach access paths are 10 feet wide, which gives more space to accommodate homeowners and residents going to the beach. The wooden walkovers will only need to be 2 to 3 feet wide, Maguire said.

"We may decide that we don't want a 10-foot wide clear path to the beach" Maguire said. "Visually, we might want something different and so we may decide to go in and put vegetation along the walkway, a hedge, to sort of hide the walkway from the homes, and, at the same time, make it more visually pleasing to the people using it. …

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