By: Erika Fernandez | WCTV Eyewitness News
May 16, 2018
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) -- The debate over access to Lake Ellen continues. Last year, homeowners put up barricades to keep people out because they were frustrated over public use of their property. The homeowner has since replaced the cement blocks with a fence.
The homeowners on both sides of Lake Ellen Dr. say enough is enough. They paid for the land, they own the property, and it's time to take back what's theirs.
Steven Fults has the documents to prove the land is his.
"This is a private lake and the county needs to pay or get judicial review to utilize the area," Fults said.
Fults tells WCTV the previous owners granted an easement to the county as a roadway only, but he believes they have been abusing their power.
"The county feels the roadway equals a boat ramp, equals a park, equals anything they want," Fults said.
The county argues the public has a right to the road and to access the lake. Wakulla County Commissioner Ralph Thomas said leaders first proposed a concrete boat ramp. Then, to avoid a legal battle, scaled that back to a primitive ramp and a park.
But still, that’s too much for the landowners. Fults and Avara want the County to pay for public use of the lake, or take it for a judicial review.
"This is where they want to build a park, its 50 ft. wide, and its right next to my house," said landowner, Joe Avara.
Avara has lived here for nine years. He said the county is trying to drive him out.
"In this situation here, we're being treated as though we are the enemy," Avara said.
Avara said the land owners already deal with loud noise, drug use, and trash at the lakefront. They don't want a boat ramp to make it worse.
Despite the county commission's plans to move forward with that proposal of that primitive boat ramp, these neighbors say they are not backing down and they will continue to fight.
The Wakulla County Board of Commissioners' proposal includes adding parking, a portable toilet, and adding gravel with the primitive boat ramp.