Battle for access to Holmes Beach

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HOLMES BEACH (WFLA) – There is growing frustration over a long-standing beach access point along Holmes Beach.

The walkway at the end of 78th Street was recently blocked off to the public. Neighbors say private landlords at the end of the street recently posted “private property” and “no go” signs in front of the walkway that residents and visitors have used for decades.

Many residents and visitors have spoken out against the move. The neighbors launched a petition aimed at obtaining the reopening of the access point to the public.

“Access to the beach is now threatened. If two owners can do it at the end of a street, others will do it at other beach access points all over AMI. [Anna Maria Island]said residents who started the petition.

“I’ve been coming here for about five years and we’ve used the access. I just think it’s a shame it was closed,” visitor Ronnie Roath said.

The city’s mayor declined an on-camera interview with 8 On Your Side on Thursday. She described the situation on 78th Street as a “private property dispute” and said there was nothing in the past easement to indicate that the walking path “benefited the public or the city.”

“I have instructed the City Attorney to continue to seek any additional documentation we receive indicating otherwise. Fortunately, we have public beach accesses at each end of nearby streets, which benefits the public and allows easy continuity at the beach for our residents and guests,” Mayor Judy Titsworth said in an email Thursday. “While this may add a few extra steps to reach access points for some, we are fortunate to have a city ​​in which its founding fathers understood the importance of providing many beach accesses that serve the public.”

Manatee County elected officials said they heard from on-island and off-island residents regarding the situation on 78th Street.

“I am very disturbed by this trend of cutting off access to the beach to the public,” commission chairman Kevin Van Ostenbridge said. “Our citizens own the beaches. There are no private beaches in Manatee County.

Van Ostenbridge has spoken out about public access to the beach.

For the past two years, the city and county have been at odds over reducing parking on the island. This change came shortly after the start of the pandemic. City officials said bathers were turning residents’ front yards into parking lots.

Lawyers for the two landlords near Beach Road did not respond to 8 On Your Side’s request for comment.

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