Commissioners vote to expand public access hours at Wakulla County beaches

CRAWFORDVILLE, Fla. (WCTV) — After heated debate, Wakulla County commissioners voted to expand public access hours to all beaches in the county.

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

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

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

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

“I’ve spoken to so many people who are for en point d’obus, against en point d’obus, 24/7, curfew, no curfew – it’s everywhere” , he said during the debate.

Commissioner Thomas voted against the move, saying he felt the compromise still restricted individual freedoms too much.

The debate has divided the county’s coastal communities.

Perry Morris has lived at Shell Point for thirty years. He is in favor of longer hours, arguing that some of the region’s most spectacular sights only come out at night.

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

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

“Having people there, Wednesday night until 10 p.m., midnight, making their music, whatever — doesn’t work for us,” she said.

In the end, the commissioners decided not to change the county’s order, but simply ordered the county park superintendent to change the hours. A future vote might as well change the schedules again.

Copyright 2022 WCTV. All rights reserved.

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