Leave Our Beach Alone

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Leave Our Beach Alone.

STOP trying to solve a problem that does NOT exist.

The proposed restrictions only hurt the law abiding, tax paying residents of the county with no improvement to our beaches.

We are writing to you in response to the newly proposed restrictions (constantly changing draft 18, 04-06-2020, Ordinance #2020 xxxx to be voted on in June/July by the BOCC, Nassau County, Florida) to the ocean and our beaches, as well as some of the current restrictions that appear to be based on the complaints/concerns/issues noted in the minutes from the 15+ Beach Committee meetings. Please note we respect the time, effort, opinions, and recommendations of the Beach Committee. We would like to share our concerns, perspective and recommendations in hopes they will be considered in any and all decisions about our beach both current and future.

We urge you to just STOP and Leave Our Beach Alone.

Based on the facts presented below it appears you are trying to solve a problem that does NOT exist. 

As frequent visitors to the county beaches we have all seen or heard at one time or another trash, poop, cars and trucks in the wrong spot or stuck, alcohol consumption, loud music, etc. on the beach. Nobody wants these things to happen on the beach. However, we recognize that the beach is a public place and there will always be a small number of people that do the wrong thing. 

For the most part we self-police the beach. Many of us regularly clean up the messes/trash left behind from other people or instruct those that don’t know where they can and can’t drive. After all, it has worked this way for generations!

That said, we do not believe there is adequate evidence/data to conclude that the complaints/concerns/issues noted in the Beach Committee meeting minutes are a “real” problem. Most importantly, we do not believe that any of these complaints/concerns/issues warrant any new ordinances or restrictions to our beaches. Lastly, we have not seen any evidence that the proposed restrictions will be effective yet will cost the tax payers an enormous amount of money.

As such, we urge you to just STOP and leave our beach alone.

Here is what it comes down to: Nassau County ordinances, particularly when they involve changes to existing lawful activities, must be based on “real” problems supported by fact-based evidence (i.e., empirical data not anecdotal). This is even more important when the implementation of a new ordinance is costly and restricts lawful activities of the law-abiding, tax paying residents of Nassau County. Creating ordinances that punish tax paying and law-abiding county residents, intentionally or unintentionally, is downright wrong.

The rights and privileges of the law-abiding, tax paying residents of the county must be defended rigorously. We are the fabric of this community. We are busy with full time jobs, raising kids, volunteering our time and money in our schools, soccer, surfing, softball and swimming recreation programs and organizations, etc. We cannot always make committee meetings and need our elected officials to represent us and to have the courage to defend our rights/privileges in our absence.

Ordinances, particularly changes to existing lawful activities, must be based on “real” problems not random complaints or anecdotal evidence. The burden of proof must be the onus of those proposing the change. Based on the minutes from the 15+ Beach Committee meetings the complaints/concerns/issues are anecdotal at best. We do not see any valid basis for further restrictions at our beach.

Again, we urge you to just STOP, please, and Leave Our Beach Alone. Based on the facts presented here we suggest the following:

·        Driving on the beach to park is permitted at Peter’s Point, Scott Road and American Beach day and night all year long including turtle season. We have been parking on the beach for generations. If there was a “real” problem with it there should be plenty of data to support the claim, yet all we hear are anecdotal complaints. Driving and parking on the beach is part of the charm of the island that draws locals and tourists to our beaches. It also enables the handicapped much easier access to the beach. We have plenty of beach where vehicles are not permitted.

·        Drive on the beach at your own risk, 4 x 4 recommended. Please know requiring 4 x 4 would ban golf carts from the beach. A lot of people who bought golf carts and paid to have them street legal along with the golf cart businesses would be hurt by this rule which does nothing to improve the safety of the beach.

·        Speed limit stays at 10 mph, reducing the limit and changing signs to 5 mph as proposed is a waste of tax payer money with no additional improvement in safety.

·        Fires are permitted with no changes to current ordinance. There is no evidence that beach fires are a problem. Further the FBFD does not list beach fires as a significant risk to the community in their assessment and strategic plan.

·        Camping is permitted with no changes to current ordinance, enforce the isolated issues as necessary.

·        No access control booths or gates at the beach – booths and gates are unsightly, unnecessary and a waste of tax payer money to construction, maintain, and staff. Handing out a beach pass will only create wasted paper that will likely end up as trash on the beach and will create traffic backups onto our roadways.

·        Leave the beach in its natural state. Many of the proposed changes in the draft ordinance require more “stuff” on the beach and dunes. Do not install any additional toll booths, gates, ropes, signs, fences or patrol vehicles in dunes or on the beach. Further, evaluate all current stuff on the beach and relocate them off the beach and dunes or remove them unless absolutely necessary.

We want to keep our beaches natural and joyful. The proposed restrictions will degrade our beach experience. They will make it frustrating and confining for locals and visitors alike. And worse, we have yet to see any evidence that these proposed restrictions are needed nor have we seen any proof that they will even be effective. It appears we are throwing “stuff” at the proverbial wall hoping it sticks with an enormous cost to the tax payers.

The facts and data below overwhelmingly CONTRADICT the complaints/concerns/issues used to justify the proposed ordinance and restrictions to the beach.  So please, just STOP and Leave Our Beach Alone.

1.      We do not see a problem at the beach based on the fact that the population is growing in the county.

FACT: According to 2018 Nassau County Growth Trends Report, population growth in county is up 40% since 2000.

Would people still be moving to the county if we had real problems at the beach? Perhaps they are moving here because we allow driving, camping, fires, and dogs on the beach? With the forecasted increase in the county population perhaps we should consider expanding the beach driving areas instead of reducing them.

2.      We do not see a problem at the beach based on the appreciation of real estate prices in the county for homes near the beach.

FACT: Home prices near the beach are increasing and nearly double that of homes away from the beach.

Shouldn’t real estate prices along the beach be dropping if there is a problem at the beach? Perhaps people are paying more for houses at the beach because we allow camping, driving, fires, dogs on the beach?

3.      We do not see a problem at the beach based on the local tourism statistics.

FACT: According the latest TDC report, tourism is up 51% since 2011 and the number one reason tourist come to Amelia Island is the beaches. According to TDC surveys visitors overwhelmingly choose our “clean, safe, beautiful” beaches as the primary reason they come here.

Why are so many people visiting here to go to our beaches if we have a problem at the beach? Perhaps tourists are coming to our beaches because we allow driving, camping, fires, and dogs?

4.      We do not see a problem at the beach with camping, driving, or fires based on turtle nesting statistics. Further, none of these activities are considered primary threats to turtle nesting.

FACT: According to Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation, nesting counts hit an all time high in 2016 and have been trending up for over a decade all while fires, camping, driving, etc. were being done on our beaches.

Wouldn’t we see turtle nesting counts decline if camping, fires, driving, etc. were a real problem? In fact, the recent trend in turtle nesting is up!

FACT: According to NOAA Fisheries and the SEE Turtles organization the list of threats to turtle populations does NOT include driving, camping, or fires. In fact, it is coastal development such as condos, hotels, residential homes, and resorts along the beach (i.e., built on the dunes) that have a negative impact on turtle nesting.

If protecting turtles is a high priority shouldn’t the focus be on commercial fishing practices and managing coastal development instead of parking on the beach? Restricting activities on the beach such as camping, fires, riding horses, driving, which are already limited, to a few areas makes no sense based on the data. Moreover, where is the data showing these activities have killed turtles here on Nassau County beaches?

5.      We do not see a “real” problem with crime on our beaches based on the publicly available city and county crime statistics. Based on the minutes from the Beach Committee, criminal activities were alleged to be rampant on the beaches particularly at Peter’s Point. Claims have also been made that the county has received a “dramatic increase” in calls regarding criminal activity primarily at Peters Point. 

FACT: According to the most recent Nassau County and Fernandina Beach crime statistics, "actual" crime rates are trending down by double digits.

If a large number of criminal activities were actually occurring at our beaches at a high frequency, why is it not showing up in the crime data? If the “dramatic increase” in calls were legitimate why are the crimes rates dropping? Is our law enforcement not responding quick enough or are these alleged criminals too sophisticated for our law enforcement? We do not believe law enforcement is the problem here. Considering the fact our “actual” crimes rates are dropping begs the question as to the validity these calls.

Further, the criminal data in Fernandina Beach and Nassau County do not justify spending tax payer money on additional security or law enforcement for our beaches.

6.      We do not see a need to make changes to Nassau County beaches simply because “other” counties are doing it. Nassau County and Fernandina Beach are not Volusia County or Brevard County. 

FACT: Volusia county has a population of 500,000 while Brevard County has a population of over 600,000. Both are about 50 miles from Orlando which has a metro area population of 2 million people. Orlando has no beaches. To access the beach people from Orlando drive to Volusia and/or Brevard County.

This is nothing like Nassau County with a population of 88,000. Further, the closest major city to Nassau County is Jacksonville in Duval County. People living in Jacksonville have close access to the beach – Huguenot Park, Little Talbot State Park, Hanna Park, Neptune Beach, Atlantic Beach, Jacksonville Beach, and Ponte Vedra Beach.  And Georgia people have their own beaches as well.

We have elected government officials to represent the residents of Nassau County not “other” counties. Ordinances for Nassau County must be based on the facts specific to the county.

Again, please, STOP and Leave Our Beach Alone.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

The law abiding, tax paying citizens