Letter to City Staff Re: Osteen Public Beach Access Issues
August 26, 2015
I received calls Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and today regarding problems at Osteen access.
On Thursday, I received a call noting new signs had been placed that indicated there was no public beach off Osteen. I went to go see for myself on Friday and, though I don't believe the signs were in places they shouldn't have been, they were definitely misleading. Along the path on the left side is a sign with an arrow pointing to the left (east into the dunes) that says "Path to Public Beach." About 10 feet further down the path is another sign that says "Private Beach."
Any tourist or nonlocal that chooses to enter the beach at this access would see the signs and be led directly into the dunes, left with the impression that there is no public beach access from the Osteen path.
If you do continue along the wall marking the true Osteen path, eventually you reach the beach and are greeted with another sign. This is a directional sign that indicates "path to public beach" with an arrow indicating straight ahead. This leads people past all the chairs and set ups down toward the jetty.
Again, locals understand that there is a state park and public access at Osteen, but anyone else would be completely led astray and misdirected. If one were to believe and follow the initial signage pointing left, he/she would find themselves illegally wandering the dunes.
It is interesting to note that as I was walking along the beach, I turned around and found one of the beach chair guys following me and taking my photograph/video in an apparent attempt to intimidate me. When I pulled up my phone to take his photo, he ran behind the chairs. I am left to wonder what might have happened had I chosen to bring a towel and actually sit down on the beach.
On Saturday, I received a call from someone who put me on speaker just as an officer from OCSO arrived and told them they were trespassing by being in front of the emerald grande chairs and within 20 feet of the water. Apparently, the beach chair guys called them in for the family's trespassing and harassment- a harassment that stemmed, ironically, from the family taking photos of the beach chair guys taking photos of them!!!
I listened as the family explained that they knew the rule and that they were allowed within 20 feet. Eventually the officer let it go and the family was permitted to stay.
The incident on Saturday coupled with my own experience on Friday leads to one and only one conclusion. People are deliberately being misled, and attempts are being made to have people believe there is no more public beach access at Osteen. Efforts are being made both by the chair rental folks personally and via signage that sends people away from the public beach area they have used for decades to an area further down by the jetty. Further, for those people that actually do know they have the ability and right to use the beach at Osteen, the beach chair folks are harassing and attempting to intimidate them into either going elsewhere or provoking them into doing something prosecutable. And, these beach chair guys operating on "private" property zoned residential are now charging $40 a setup.
But it only gets worse.
Today I began receiving calls about a family drowning in the hole. I learned that, in yet another effort to decrease the public beach area, the Emerald Grande beach shuttle has widened it's corridor such that it is now almost double the width it was previously. Additionally, a family was out in the water to the side of the hole when the current pulled them into the hole and subsequently began sucking them out into the pass. Bystanders ran into the water to help once they saw what was happening in an attempt to rescue the family. Another bystander ran down the beach to the nearest lifeguard tower to seek assistance. One rescuer had to be rescued himself. A beach rental guy eventually came to see what he could do.
Fortunately everyone was rescued without injury. However, the lifeguard who had to leave his post, noted that this has happened multiple times, and that he has had to inform his supervisor of these incidents as well as the unsafe conditions down by the access. FYI: The lifeguards are NOT responsible for the area where the hole is or Osteen. Their territory is the gulfront and where the tower and ski are placed near the jetty.
Every day there is an issue at this location. Different people, different ploys, different problems- same objective: making Osteen miserable for non- Emerald Grande guests so they will go elsewhere and give them the "private" beach they advertise.
This is no longer a family-friendly public beach spot- though it should be and needs to be once again. The beach chair guys even attempted to intimidate me and they have no idea who I am other than NOT an Emerald Grande guest whom was shuttled over. It is abundantly clear that they have been directed to make locals feel uncomfortable to the extent of intimidation and harassment.
This is simply unacceptable. I don't care what entities or agencies we need to involve, whether we need to hold a special meeting, or whether we need to engage legal action. What I do know is that this has gone on far too long, and steps must be taken to cease the actions of the Emerald Grande, Mr. Bos, or whomever the owners of Parcel B may be, in his/their attempts to prevent the public from using the public beach and agreed upon 20’.
Indeed, in City of Daytona Beach v. Tona-Rama, Inc., the court held that a beachfront landowner would also have a clear obligation to refrain from interfering with the public's customary use of the dry sand areas.
Further, the hole is a separate yet related matter. As satellite imagery, surveys, and independent SCUBA divers have documented, the now infamous hole was NOT present before the shuttle began its route in 2013. This hole was indisputably (via aforementioned independent imagery, surveys and divers) created by the prop dredge of the Emerald Grande shuttle. In fact, imagery of Norriego Point shows the exact same type hole created where the shuttle previously dropped off its guests! The dangers of this hole have been articulated by the public in council meetings, via emails to the council, as well as in phone calls and other methods. Buoys don’t absolve someone of responsibility, and the currents in the pass don’t conform to the buoys’ borders. As we have seen repeatedly this year, people are pulled through the buoys, or are on the other side of the buoys where there is a presumption of safety- no lifeguard, no danger signs, etc. As all of us who live here know, the currents in the pass are so strong buoys do not remain in place. Armed with this information, another court ruling is appropriate:
A landowner owes a duty to…
“to refrain from wanton negligence or willful misconduct which would injure [the person], to refrain from intentionally exposing [the person] to danger, and to warn [the person] of a defect or condition known to the landowners to be dangerous when such danger is not open to ordinary observation“ (Bishop v. First Nat'l Bank of Florida, Inc., 609 So. 2d 722, 725 (Fla. 5th DCA 1992).
Mr. Shirley should be aware of these cases and the fact that the Florida State Comprehensive Plan (Chapter 187, F.S.) recognizes the need “to ensure the public’s right to reasonable access to beaches.”
I want us to address this issue now. I will give you a call tomorrow in regards to how we can proceed.