Rick Scott Signs Order Over Confusing Beach Access Law

Gov. Rick Scott on Thursday signed an executive order in response to confusion over a new Florida law.

A new law, effective July 1st, outlines the process local governments have to follow in order to allow public access to otherwise-privately owned beaches. Scott wants the public to know that the order does not make public beaches private.

"Because Floridians and our visitors deserve to have access to our world-class beaches, and property owners deserve to have their property rights respected, it is critical that there be no room for confusion regarding access to public beaches in Florida," Scott said in the order.

In Florida, many homeowners own the sand down to the average high-water line, though some counties have passed local ordinances that let the public use otherwise private beaches for sunbathing, fishing and walking if people have historically had access for those purposes.

The new law spells out the process for local governments to allow public access to those areas. 

There's been widespread confusion on what the law does, leaving some people afraid that they'd no longer have access to beaches around the state.

The newly-signed order directs the state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to establish a website where the public can report any problems with gaining access to public beaches. 

The agency must review the complaints and issue a report to the Legislature on their findings.

The DEP will also serve as a liaison between the public and local governments about how the new law should be implemented.

Scott also ordered all agencies under his direction not to implement any rules restricting access to public beaches unless it's to protect safety.

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