My family and I went to the beach last week. We live near Milton, Florida, which is in Santa Rosa County. We go to Navarre beach, which is also in Santa Rosa County. Politically, Santa Rosa County is usually very conservative. I define conservative as being in favor of less government and more personal liberties.
My views are libertarian in nature, but there are a few areas where the Libertarian Party and I disagree. I disagree with the Libertarian stand that abortion is subject to a woman’s choice, and I disagree with them on the repeal of all laws regulating so-called “victimless crimes, such as prostitution, pornography (of any type including child porn), gambling and suicide. They wish to repeal all such laws, I do not. Other than those things mentioned, I am a libertarian at heart. But because of those things, I cannot in good conscience join the Libertarian Party. If there were a strictly right-conservative party, I would be a member. Since there is none, I am a right-conservative Republican. But I am currently considering leaving that party due to its increasing distaste for conservatives.
We went to the beach to play in the surf, relax, walk down the beach, build sand castles, etc. We do this often in the summer. But through the years, government has added restriction after restriction to beach going. Most of the restrictions have come down from Big Brother (unconstitutionally, of course) and the State of Florida (A Little Bit Smaller Brother). But now the local government has gotten into the act.
Let me go back a few years. When I was a child, I grew up in this area. My parents and other family members were beach-goers so I spent a lot of time on these area beaches. These are the beaches on the Miracle Strip, a strip of beach on the Gulf of Mexico that runs from Panama City, FL, to Mobile, AL, a stretch of about 150 miles. I am in my sixties now and when I was a child, there were absolutely NO buildings on the beaches around here. The only exception was in the immediate area of Pensacola Beach. Other than that there were literally miles of open beaches in this area.
We could camp on the beach, drive on the beach, fish at night on the beach and take our dogs to the beach. But now all has changed. “Progress” has occurred. Almost every available inch of beach is covered with buildings from beach-houses to high-rise condos. Now, I have no problem with developing an area, but we have gone overboard with beach development. This treatise is not about that.
Back in the late sixties it was obvious that there were many developers interested in developing our pristine beaches. We knew what the East Coast of Florida looked like from Miami to West Palm Beach. It was wall to wall beach development. In this area we did not want our beaches overdeveloped like they were on the East Coast. So we turned to the Federal Government for help. Boy was that a mistake.
Back in the sixties it seemed like we believed that government could do everything better than individuals could. I remember asking my father how we could make sure that our savings were safe. He said that the Federal Government took care of that and that was good. That was an oversimplification, but I accepted it. The attitude that the Federalis could handle everything and give us cradle to grave security was rampant in those days. Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society was in its infancy then and we had great hopes that the Federal Government would be a boon to us all. How naïve we were!
The late sixties saw the Save Our Beach Campaign of Northwest Florida. It was a grass roots effort to stop over-development of our beaches. Our Representative, Bob Sikes took up our cause and in 1971, the Gulf Islands National Seashore became a reality. That effectively limited private development on the portions of our beaches that belonged to the National Seashore. We thought it great. And it was great…then.
For years we, the public, had unlimited access to our beaches. We could drive out on the beach with a four wheel drive vehicle or we could park along the pavement that ran from Fort Pickens to Navarre (FL 399), or the road that ran from Johnson’s Beach to Fort Morgan, Alabama (the Alabama Point Road—FL 292 & AL 180). The road had crushed oyster-shells on its shoulders to enable parking. One could park on the shoulder and walk to the pristine beach below the road on either side. To the North was the sound, the bay, or the Intracoastal Waterway and to the south was the Gulf of Mexico. Both sides had excellent beaches.
After the National Seashore took over, the developers began to develop the Alabama Point Road, but the National Seashore beaches on FL 399 were still accessible. We were still able to night fish, camp, and park along the road to go to the beach. There were many times that my dad and I went night fishing on the sound side to catch flounder with a tub, a battery, and a flounder light. I remember camping along those beaches when I was a child and a teenager. I remember going to the beaches with dates during the summer. We drove until we found a parking spot on the shoulder and parked there and went on down to the beach to have fun.
The beach was open to the public with almost unlimited use allowed. It was a free public beach and this was a free America and we citizens were free to indulge in legal activities that did not infringe upon the rights of others. The beach was a wonderful, open, public place to go. We thought the Gulf Islands National Seashore was the savior of our beach. That was then.
In 1995, Hurricane Opal hit. The beaches were devastated. Many buildings were destroyed on the beach. (We had secretly hoped that the high-rises on the beaches would be damaged so badly that the developers would clear out. That was a pipe dream). FL 399 was mostly washed away. You could stand where the road used to be and where you would once see dunes the beach was flat. It was flat for miles. There were no dunes left. The storm surge had been so powerful that it moved all the sand on the beach, along with the road pavement, into the sound, leaving a flat, barren landscape.
May I say right here that this has happened before and the beaches have been flattened before. Nature rebuilt the dunes. There is no telling how many times nature has flattened those beaches and rebuilt them. And it was done without the help of the Federal Government of the United States.
When FL 399 was rebuilt, something disagreeable happened. Florida 399 was paved and open to traffic, but now there was no parking allowed along the beach. This effectively cut off that wonderful public beach to which we had access for so many years. There reason? The dunes had to be reformed and people walking on the beach would impair that. So the beach was cut off to the public by the Gulf Islands National Seashore, i.e. the Federal Government. Now we no longer have access to the majority of the seashore by bureaucratic decree. The dunes reformed in a matter of months, but the beaches are still closed to the public. The current reason is that humans disrupt wildlife, especially the turtles that lay eggs on the beach. We cannot even walk legally on the sand near the road. We must stay completely off the beaches except in a couple of small areas designated for public use. Out of 32 miles of white sand beaches, we are only allowed on a few hundred feet of the beach. Big Brother at work.
I must say that there is a small section of beach open to the public at Navarre. Johnson’s Beach, which is a part of the National Seashore, now has a toll-booth on it. One must now pay the National Seashore to use what used to be a free access public beach. Now a fee is imposed daily on cars that go to the beach. At Navarre there is no fee and the beach is still free. That is because that half-mile section of the beach belongs to Santa Rosa County is not a part of the Gulf Islands National Seashore (though there has been recent talk and county commission meetings of charging a fee for the use of that beach). We have been going there since Hurricane Opal.
That free beach is just a short run of about a half mile but you can still park on the shoulder and walk down to the beach. Many people have taken advantage of that area since Opal and guess what? The dunes developed on that section of the beach at the same rate the dunes developed on the restricted beach along SR 399! Use of the beach by the public made absolutely no difference to the rate of dune development. Barring access to the beach along FL 399 is a simple case of Government arrogance.
The Gulf Islands National Seashore has changed from a beach savior to a beach closer. Now there are many restrictions on the use of the beach. That long, long stretch of beach (32 miles) that used to be open to the public is now heavily restricted. You are no longer allowed on the beach after sunset. You cannot drive on the beach, you cannot take your dog to the beach, and when conditions are not in accordance with some bureaucrat’s standards, such as rough surf conditions, the beaches are closed to the public. In other words, Big Brother is protecting us from ourselves. If I want to fish at night, I am out of luck because all beach parking is restricted at night. The only way the public has access to the beaches at night is by boat. There are no restrictions preventing the beaching a boat after dark to go fishing or camping as far as I know—at least not yet!
This is too much. I can go along with a bit of regulation to keep the peace and to protect the beaches from intentional misuse, but to have the broad restrictions that have now been placed on the beaches is simply another aspect of Big Government that regulates every aspect of our lives. What started as an aid to keep the beat open to the public has now become another government land-grab, which is probably the true reason the Federal Government began the Gulf Islands National Seashore in the first place. The grass roots campaign played right into their hands.
I believe now that the smarter route would have been for the people in the local area to prevent our politicians from opening up the beaches to this over-development and protect the rights of the public to use the beaches. Those restrictions that prevent pets and going to the beach at night would only have happened if the locals wanted them. I personally can see no reason to lock up the beaches at night except for the fact that Big Brother has trouble keeping an eye on us low-life, untrustworthy citizens at night.
Now, back to our trip to the beach last week (actually several years ago at this update). When we arrived at the beach, I was happy and a bit surprised to see the beach is still free of charge. I noticed how much the dunes have grown since last summer. I also noticed the signs along the road saying “No Parking After Sunset”. When we got down to the water, I noticed tire tracks along there. In my mind I asked myself, “Isn’t it unlawful to drive on the beach?” Then I got my answer. There is now a Deputy Sheriff patrolling the beach in an SUV. In addition to that, there are two other policemen in four-wheelers patrolling the beach. This stretch of beach is only about a half-mile long.
Now I must ask myself, “Why do we need three policemen to patrol a half mile section of beach? Why do we need any policeman patrolling the beach?” It seems to me that there is a proliferation of law enforcement officials in our country. And that seems to reach all the way down to Navarre Beach. I must be missing something. Is crime so bad on the beach that we need three policemen to patrol it? Is crime so bad in our nation that we need an ever-increasing police force, or is this just another example of government encroachment into our personal lives? Or is it another manifestation of creeping socialism? Where will it end? Must we have one policeman for every citizen? If so, who will police the policemen?
I do not believe that crime is the reason forever increasing law enforcement, I think it is just an excuse. It is an excuse used by big government to get more and more control of its citizens. And that is what socialism is all about. Controlling its citizens and big government.
America is no longer a free country. Have you ever poured a concrete driveway on you own property? You have? Did you get permission from the government before you poured? If not, you broke the law. Local codes almost always require you to get a permit to do construction of any type on your own property. You must secure a permit from your local government. What does a permit do? It gives you permission to construct something on your own property. I understand that safety is the stated reason. And we do need safety. But If I build something unsafe on my property and get hurt or someone else gets hurt I am responsible. I should not need permission from the government. Safety is a smokescreen. Control is the real reason.
Do you have permission from the government to drive your car? If not, you are breaking the law. You must have a license to drive. What is license? It is a permit or permission! The stated reason is to make sure people know how to drive. But the real reason is government control of the public. It also gives the government access to private information about your self such as your address, phone number, social security number, and medical information. We could learn to drive without a license. We could still have driving laws without a license. A license is really unnecessary to drive. It is just a requirement of an arrogant government.
Seatbelt laws are another intrusion by big government. Yes, children must be protected and I can accept laws that force adults to buckle their children safely in the car. I can accept it, but it is still government intrusion. Adults should be responsible for their actions and should not need the government to force them to be responsible. But, because there are some irresponsible parents, I accept laws forcing them to protect their children. But the law that forces adults to wear seat belts “for their own good” is ludicrous.
I am aware of the inane reason given by advocates of seat belt laws—that seat belt laws save the state millions of dollars in reduced medical costs. Huh? How does it cost the government if a person gets into an accident and gets hurt because he is not wearing a seat belt? Sure, some of the cases are Medicaid, but most are covered by insurance. The State does not have to pay for those cases covered by insurance, which are the majority. The argument is foolish because it simply is not true. It is disingenuous. The State has saved no money by forcing adult citizens to wear seat belts. It is simply government arrogance and Big Brother’s brave new world, which may have missed the date of 1984, but is here. I must say right now, that I have worn my seat belt for years, much longer than the law has been in effect. I am not opposed to wearing seat belts, just being forced to. The state needs to but-out of my business. It is none of their business whether I wear a seat belt or not. If I get hurt, it is my responsibility and not the state’s.
Every aspect of our lives is regulated and licensed by the government. There is nothing we can do without the watchful eye of Big Brother on us all. By the way, have you noticed the cameras at every major intersection? Big Brother of watching you! In 2013, remote controlled drones will now begin watching us.
Back to my discussion about the beach. The beach was once a free place to visit and enjoy. You could go to the beach at night. You could drive on the beach. You could take your pets to the beach. You could camp on the beach. You could fish at night. Now all of the preceding are restricted. No pets, no camping, no visiting at night, no night fishing. All of the freedoms we once enjoyed are gone, taken away from us by a big, arrogant government.
There are seemingly no legitimate reasons for these restrictions, none, that is, except government control of its citizens. Oh, the government and the bureaucracy have plenty of reasons, but they are illegitimate because they violate a basic premise of the American way: the right to the pursuit of happiness without government interference. It is control that is the issue. Government wants to control us. It wants to prevent us from enjoying our freedoms. It wants power. It wants to be more and more powerful. It is a monster that is now out of control.
© 4/28/2004, Mark Oaks. All rights reserved