Skip to main content

Natural Awakenings Northwest Florida

Freedom of Beach

On June 21, the Escambia County Board of County Commissioners adopted a policy prohibiting any privatization through the sale or lease of currently unleased properties, especially conservation and preservation properties on Santa Rosa Island. Santa Rosa Island (Pensacola Beach at west end, Navarre Beach at east end and all land in between) was given to the citizens of Escambia County by a deed executed by the federal government in January 1947. The county reaffirmed the congressional restrictions in that deed.

Now the Nonbinding Referendum on Escambia County Policy for Preservation of Santa Rosa Island is on the ballot. In November, voters can support the county policy and deed restrictions by voting yes on the referendum to preserve Santa Rosa Island (otherwise known as Pensacola Beach and Navarre Beach). The referendum will be the last item on the ballot.

Unlike Destin and other overdeveloped coastal beaches, Pensacola and Navarre Beaches were never intended to be sold or given away. Congress meant for it to be held in perpetuity for the best interest of the public. Last year Congressman Matt Gaetz introduced a bill that would have stolen Pensacola’s beaches from the public, its rightful owners. Senator Bill Nelson pulled his name off the bill, killing the legislation and saving our public beaches.

Email Save [email protected] to volunteer and purchase Save Pensacola Beach items, including T-shirts, bumper stickers, buttons and yard signs. 


How Voting Can Help

The referendum on the November ballot dictates that no more unleased property on Santa Rosa Island will be sold or leased, and that conservation and preservation properties on Santa Rosa Island will continue to be protected. The two Congressional restrictions in the original 1947 deed were that none of the land on Santa Rosa Island could be sold, conveyed or given away, and that all uses of the land on Santa Rosa Island should be in the public interest.

The Save Pensacola Beach group, which has fought for more than two years to get a referendum on the ballot to keep the island publicly owned, recommends a “bottoms-up vote”: When you get your ballot in November, go to the bottom of the ballot and vote yes on the Preservation of Santa Rosa Island Referendum.

Besides voting for the referendum, there are other ways voters can protect our public beaches on Election Day.

Congressman Gaetz is also on the ballot, and he has vowed to reintroduce his beach-theft bill if re-elected. It’s critical that anyone who wants to keep our public beaches public vote for his opponent, Dr. Jennifer Zimmerman, who supports our position.

It’s also important to re-elect Senator Nelson so that he can continue to help protect our beaches. Governor Rick Scott recently signed a bill into law severely limiting the public's access to all beaches in the state of Florida. He didn't have to sign this bill, a fact that has caused a major uproar across the state. But now he is trying to convince us that he's changed his view, just to get our votes. 

The bottom line: Voting yes for the referendum will not be enough to save our beaches. We must also vote for the candidates who will support the spirit of the referendum.

For information about upcoming events, follow Save Pensacola Beach on Facebook.

Global Brief
Health Brief