The Coastal Star

Editor's Note: Confusion about beach access abounds

On April 28, signs remained posted and Manalapan police were warning people

to stay off the beach north of the Boynton Inlet.

Jerry Lower/The Coastal Star

    For four days in April, the golden sand to the north of the Boynton Inlet was off limits to the public. This made some people happy, but made many others fuming mad. And although some agencies agreed on how to proceed, others waved flags of warning. As a result, the access was re-opened one day before a scheduled media event to discuss “new public safety signage” at the inlet. So how did this boondoggle occur?

    Was the northern access closed because the inlet’s refurbished sand-transfer plant is more dangerous than it was before? Did it happen because more people are using the north side of the jetty when the guarded south side fills up? Did it happen as a way to satisfy those Manalapan residents who complain of bad behavior displayed on their beach? Or maybe it happened as a way for the county to sell a need for additional parking spaces at Inlet Park to the residents of Ocean Ridge. 

    Who knows? Maybe it’s simply the byproduct of an improving economy bringing more and more residents to our area, and subsequently more and more to our beaches.

    I suspect those who acted to close the access were influenced a bit by of all these things.

    This not an isolated situation: Many of these same issues will be discussed at an Ocean Ridge town meeting on May 6. In this instance, it’s about the public beach access at the end of Beachway Drive just across the Woolbright Road Bridge. An increase in population across the bridge is causing concern for a handful of residents who live near that beach access point.

    If towns like Ocean Ridge respond to vocal and well-funded pressure and choose to limit public access — joining South Palm Beach, Manalapan, Gulf Stream and Highland Beach as coastal towns with virtually no public beach access — isn’t the Palm Beach County Tourist Development Council going to have a difficult time honestly depicting a long, romantic stretch of  “public beach” as they work to attract even more tourists?

    And what’s the sales pitch to companies who might want to expand or relocate to this area? Surely, it’s not that their employees can easily spend a day at the beach, because that’s becoming harder and harder to do.

    With “Dog Beach” long gone — and that area rumored to soon become luxury townhomes with private beach access — there will be even more public pressure to access the remaining “public” beaches, even where they don’t provide parking or facilities. 

    Call it a sign of the times. Call it unintended consequences. Call it a shame.

— Mary Kate Leming, Editor

 

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Comment by Jackson Waycross on May 7, 2014 at 10:39am

Thank you for the article.  I have grown up here and appreciate the North Side of the inlet. I agree with you about having access to beaches.  Closing down access, closes these treasures for EVERYONE.  There is a historic wreck 'The Lothus' three quarters a mile north of the inlet, easily accessible from the shore, in about 10 - 15 feet of water This little known destination is on the National Register of Historical Places.  Unfortunately only a few willing to make that hike or this who happen to own the land near here, can access this resource or even know it's there.  

Comment by Tom Warnke on May 1, 2014 at 9:43pm

Thanks Mary Kate.  Ocean Ridge commissioners have a duty to see to it that the two intimidating signs be removed at the Beachway Drive Public Access dune crossover.  By allowing those two west-facing signs to greet beachgoers with "Private, No Trespassing" warnings on either side of the pathway, they are enabling private property owners to restrict the right of the public to use our beaches.  Simply turn the signs 90 degrees so the private property is posted, but don't intimidate the public by allowing the signs to face them as they attempt to reach the public beach via the dedicated public access easement pathway.  The Town approved a permit to place these signs, but I'm sure the Town did not specify which way the signs would point.  This may seem like a fine point, but it makes the difference between posting private property and outright intimidation of the public.  Any judge would agree, since Florida statutes state that interfering with the right of the public to use our beaches is illegal.  If the Town does not require the signs to be turned or removed, a judge will have the final say, and the residents of Ocean Ridge will all pay dearly with their tax money.  Please do the right thing.  And while you're at it, please replace the "Public Beach Access" sign that the Town recently removed from the west end of the Public Beach Access path at Beachway Drive.  The four public pathways just to the north of Beachway still have those Public Beach Access signs in place.  Why did the Town remove the sign at Beachway?  There is no good reason.  A judge already ruled that the Town of Palm Beach place signs designating all Public Access paths, and this was completed at the Town's cost.  That court ruling is one of the reasons such pathways are plainly marked all over Florida.

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