I moved to Ocean Ridge in 1973 — 50 years ago last month. For virtually that entire time, I enjoyed — without dispute or interruption — full recreational use of the beach and ocean on both sides of my access pathway through the dune at the end of Tropical Drive.
My wife moved here three years prior to me, but used to visit Tropical Drive from Canada with her parents for several years even before that.
Both of our children, now 39 and 35, grew up and played on that beach through their entire youths.
In 1974, the year after I moved here, a landmark case, City of Daytona Beach v. Tona-Rama Inc., was appealed to the Florida Supreme Court. In the March 25, 1974, ruling quashing the decision of an earlier court, Chief Justice James C. Adkins repeatedly and eloquently affirmed what he variously termed:
• “The right of the public of access to, and enjoyment of, Florida’s oceans and beaches” which had “long been recognized by this court”;
• “The interest and rights of the public to the full use of the beaches should be protected”;
• “If the recreational use of the sandy area adjacent to mean high tide has been ancient, reasonable, without interruption and free from dispute, such use, as a matter of custom, should not be interfered with by the owner”;
• “The owner may make any use of his property which is consistent with such public use and not calculated to interfere with the exercise of the right of the public to enjoy the dry sand area as a recreational adjunct of the wet sand or foreshore area”;
• “This right of use cannot be revoked by the land owner”;
• “The general public may continue to use the dry sand area for their usual recreational activities … because of a right gained through custom to use this particular area of beach as they have without dispute and without interruption for many years.”
Further, Scott Woolam of the Division of State Land, Department of Environmental Protection, states in a Feb. 2, 2022, email regarding the Erosion Control Line superseding the Mean High Water Line in locations proximate to state-funded beach restoration projects: “The resulting additions to upland property are also subject to a public easement for traditional uses of the sandy beach consistent with uses that would have been allowed prior to the need for the restoration project.”
Finally, Ocean Ridge Town Attorney Christy Goddeau acknowledged in a Dec. 5 Town Commission meeting that with the subject beach, there are “other property interests involved regarding the public’s access and easements that the public has … that have been created over the years.”
I believe the town of Ocean Ridge owes a duty of care to its residents to preserve the above referenced rights.