Commissioners vote to expand public access hours at Wakulla County beaches

After a lively debate, Wakulla County Commissioners voted to expand public access hours at all county beaches.
Published: Apr. 4, 2022 at 10:52 PM EDT
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CRAWFORDVILLE, Fla. (WCTV) - After a lively debate, Wakulla County Commissioners voted to expand public access hours at all county beaches.

The new hours will be from 6 a.m. to midnight. The beaches were previously closed from sunset to sunrise.

The vote was split 3-2, with Commissioners Ralph Thomas and Quincee Messersmith voting against.

The move represented a second attempt in as many meetings to expand beach hours. Commissioner Thomas previously proposed 24/7 access to the beaches, but the motion failed to gain a second and died.

Monday’s proposal came from Commissioner Mike Kemp, who said he felt it was a compromise after talking with many people on both sides of the issue.

“I talked to so many people who are for it in Shell Point, against it in Shell Point, 24/7, curfew, no curfew -- it’s all over the place,” he said during the debate.

Commissioner Thomas voted against the move, saying he felt the compromise was still too restricting on personal freedoms.

The debate has split the county’s coastal communities.

Perry Morris has lived in Shell Point for 30 years. He’s in favor of expanding the hours, arguing some of the area’s most spectacular sights only come out at night.

“The dark sky you don’t get in a Tallahassee setting, the beautiful stars. The Milky Way,” he said.

But others worry about what a relaxed curfew might mean for their community. Anne Henson was one of several who spoke out against the move during the meeting.

“Having people down there, Wednesday night to 10, midnight, doing their music, whatever -- doesn’t work for us,” she said.

In the end, commissioners decided not to change the county ordinance, but instead simply direct the county’s park director to change the hours. A future vote could just as easily modify the hours again.

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