Sarasota Magazine

FL - Who Owns Florida's Beaches?

Most Floridians—and our visitors—have no idea that their ability to stroll our beloved beaches is in jeopardy.

n hour before sunset, and several weeks before the pandemic hit, I walked south along Siesta Key’s Turtle Beach until I found myself in front of the sea oat fields that veil the multimillion-dollar waterfront mansions of north Casey Key. There, a security guard dressed in black waited for me where the wet sand met the dry.

“What are you doing here?” he asked.

“I’m just out for a walk.”

“Are you a resident of Casey Key?”

“Well, the thing is, this beach is private property, and if you wanna be here, you gotta be in the water.”

Another man appeared out of the sea oats and walked up to us. He was the head of security. He explained that the private property reached all the way to the “mean high water line.”

“What’s that?” I asked.
“It’s the line that divides the public beach from the private. It’s based on a 19-year average of the high tide.”

I didn’t understand, but asked him where, exactly, this mean high water line was, and where I was allowed to walk. He pointed out to the Gulf of Mexico.

“The line is about 20 feet into the water,” he told me. I figured I’d be in about waist-high water if I waded out that far.

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