Growing crowds in growing West Palm Beach and a need for consistency forced the city of Palm Beach this fall to padlock a popular stretch of sand after dark.
New hours from sunrise to sunset on the beach north of the breakers puts it in line with the other beaches of the city and calms owners by the sea concerned about late night revelers. Previous hours were 5:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m.
But some Palm Beach residents and non-Islanders are questioning the new hours, especially with daylight saving time ending Sunday. Switching to standard time means the beach lockdown will begin when the sun goes down around 5:30 p.m.
Daphne and Paul Flach, who have lived in Palm Beach for 20 years, said they sympathize with owners of beachfront properties and agree they deserve the “tranquility that our pristine ocean beach provides.”
Is the beach public or private?: Stretch of sand on Palm Beach invaded by “mobs”
But the couple, who live on Sunrise Avenue, said they were surprised recently to find a locked door to the Root Trail beach access – a 20-foot-wide entrance that was previously unclosed. The rule change that closed the beach from sunset to sunrise included closing the busy path at the end of the Root Trail, similar to what is used at the entrances to Sunset Avenue, Dunbar Road and Wells Road.
“As good citizens, we try to read all the notices on the city council’s agenda, but unfortunately we missed the most important,” said the couple. “Daylight saving time, which is slated to end this weekend, limits our beloved community beach to even fewer hours.”
The ordinance update approved on September 14 is the third time the city has changed the hours for the beach between Sunset Avenue and Wells Road – a unique section of Tony Island as it has multiple public entrances and ‘public parking nearby, but without facilities or lifeguards.
Pro-Tem Council Chairman Bobbie Lindsay first raised the idea of changing schedules in July, noting a spike in popularity that began at the start of the COVID pandemic, when people were looking for things to do during closures.
She said the lake trail had been “permanently altered” because it was discovered by a larger group of people and the same was happening on the beaches.
“We are suffering from growth on the other side of the bridge,” Lindsay said. “For the safety and well-being of all of our residents who live in a public beach area, it’s just a good idea to be consistent.”
Last fall, council members agreed to close area beaches at sunset after seaside owners complained that a group of visitors had broken into their properties, swinging in their hammocks, leaving trash, lounging by houses, drink alcohol and urinate in public. These concerns had lasted for at least a year, but intensified in the summer of 2020 following the COVID restrictions.
Other Palm Beach residents, however, were shocked to find locked doors at public entrances between dusk and dawn following the October 2020 decision.
In December 2020, the city approved an emergency ordinance that changed the beach’s hours of operation from 5:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. in response to those concerns.
The September 14 council vote returned the hours to the original hours of operation from sunrise to sunset.
West Palm Beach resident Virginia Prodanov wrote a letter last year opposing beach restrictions and what she saw as the derision of non-Palm Beach residents using the public beach.
This week, Prodanov said she doesn’t visit Palm Beach much anymore and understands concerns about bad behavior on the beach.
“But it seems clear that they don’t want us there,” she said. “We’re overbuilt and we keep overbuilt and that’s the kind of conflict we’re going to have because of that.”
Unlike the city’s three municipal beaches at Midtown, Clarke, and Phipps Ocean Park, the area between Sunrise and Wells includes a private beach west of the Erosion Control Line. The line is a fixed point that was established at the mean high tide line in 2002 prior to a beach reloading project.
The beach was renovated in 2003, 2006, 2015 and 2020. The line aims to prevent private owners from claiming a beach built with taxpayer money. Last year, private homeowners installed plastic poles to mark their beach west of the poles that the public can use closer to the water.
The posts, which were marked with the words “Private beach: no trespassing” became a flashpoint for beach goers, some of whom complained of feeling like strangers even as residents of the island. . A vandal was seen on a homeowner’s security camera removing poles from fine December sand. Most of the messages have since been washed away or missing.
In February, city workers discovered that one of the bicycle-style cable locks used to secure the Sunrise Avenue gate had been cut. The city now uses U-shaped steel locks which are more difficult to get through.
More recently, a sign showing the new beach hours went missing, according to comments at the October council meeting. He was replaced the next day.
Palm Beach Police Captain Will Rothrock has said anecdotally that it appears there are fewer people using the beach than at the height of activity in 2020 and that the police are trying to demonstrate diligently to unlock the doors in accordance with the new hours.
“We have recalls in place, but it’s not always accurate,” he said. “If there is a call to 911, it may be delayed. “
Kimberly Miller is a veteran reporter for the Palm Beach Post, part of the USA Today Network in Florida. She covers weather, climate and environment and has a certificate in weather forecasting from Penn State. Contact Kim at [email protected]