The News-Press

Whose beach is it? Condo owners, The Ritz stake their claims, shoo public away

Winter visitors are flocking to warm Gulf waters, quickly filling Vanderbilt Beach with towels and umbrellas. Look closer and one will see another sign of the tourist season in Collier County: security guards.

Guards again are posted south of the popular Vanderbilt Beach parking garage and access point to keep throngs off private beaches at The Ritz-Carlton resort and the neighboring Bay Colony high-rise condos in North Naples.

Public access to private beaches has been contentious in Collier County and other parts of Florida. A controversial bill signed last year by then-Gov. Rick Scott makes it harder for local governments to argue that private beaches should be open to the public.

The Ritz-Carlton owns about 750 feet of coastline just south of a public stretch of Vanderbilt Beach. Seating with umbrellas for shade and table-side service fills the private beach used exclusively by hotel guests. Beachgoers hoping to sneak a blanket onto the private sands are met by a Ritz-Carlton employee and asked to leave the hotel's stretch of beach. A change in umbrella colors marks the border between the hotel and Bay Colony beaches.

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