Sand renourishment pacts protect public beach access

New state beach access laws that went into effect July 1 will not impact Brevard County’s beaches because most private beachfront property owners already signed agreements for sand renourishment projects that guarantee public access along the beach, according to county officials.

Those sand renourishment agreements cover the beaches from Port Canaveral south to Spessard Holland Park in Melbourne Beach, excluding the section at Patrick Air Force Base. Further south in the Archie Carr National Wildlife Refuge there are sections of beach not covered by the county agreements but with other types of permission granted from the property owners, said Mike McGarry, Beaches, Boating and Waterways Program Manager for Brevard County.

The change in state law “is only an issue if an oceanfront property owner decides to make some effort to prohibit people from walking along the beach on the edge of their property. The change means it’s a little more challenging and you have to go to court for each individual property’’ to establish if public access is allowed anyway under historical or customary use, McGarry said.

While not required under the legislation, Satellite Beach is considering taking the extra step of contacting each of its beachfront property owners to seek voluntary agreements. The documents would indicate that the beach areas behind their homes have been open for public use in the past and will remain so, said Satellite Beach City Manager Courtney Barker.

“Quite frankly, it’s really unnecessary because the beach renourishment public easements really have taken care of all that. Legally, those residents gave up the right to block off public access when the accepted the sand, but I would like for us to do it (get voluntary public use agreements) out of an abundance of caution,’’ Barker said.

While officials assure the state beach access law change is no big deal locally, many residents remain vigilant including those involved with the July 1 “Everyone’s Beach” Facebook gathering, sponsored by the Save the Mid-Reach, spearheaded by Matt Fleming, which is focused on renourishment sand quality and the impact of adding sand to local near shore reefs.

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