Beach Driving: How long will it Last?

We can put a man on the moon, but we haven’t solved the beach driving issue!

In the most recent Mid-Florida Marketing and Research Out-of-State Visitors Profile, 79% of respondents rated the reason to visit Daytona Beach as the beach. When I review these reports on a monthly basis, from a tourism standpoint, the beach and the activity of walking on the beach, remain the golden goose of Daytona Beach. Let’s face it, if it weren’t for the beach, what would the economy look like? As we work to diversify our economy for higher paying jobs, let us not forget how we got here and our responsibility to evolve the tourism business.

I am a great believer in and activist for educational opportunities to help our children become better educated and obtain jobs in all industries, but tourism is my passion, you might say my New York Giants. When I was asked to share my thoughts on beach driving, I jumped at the chance because the future of our region does not live or die with beach driving, rather tourism and the future of tourism, lives or dies with what we provide the tourist, how we treat the tourist, and how we approach the changes that are coming.

So, about beach driving – if you like beach driving, you have a place where you can take the family, park your car and enjoy the beach with others who prefer to park on the beach. If you don’t like beach driving, you have a place where you can park across the street and enjoy the beach free of cars and trucks.

Now, there are two things out of our control, and the first is that red sand is moving south down the coast, and no one can drive on red sand. Case closed. I am not a geologist or one of those beach doctors, but I am betting in 10 years Mother Nature is going to take away beach driving, and there is nothing we can do about that. The second reason involves government, and recently this has come into the spotlight with HB 631 and the “Customary Use Ordinances.” Provisions in the bill prevent local governments from enacting “Customary Use Ordinances,” except where such ordinances are adopted by a particular process and affirmed by a court. “Customary Use Ordinances” are local ordinances that recognize, regulate, and protect existing public beach access rights based on the legal doctrine of custom, or “customary use.” In Florida, as the Florida Supreme Court has stated, customary use rights arise where the public’s use has been ancient, reasonable, without interruption, and free from dispute. Daytona Beach fits that description … minus the last one – if you get my drift. Case closed.

So the reality is that, I think beach driving is going to go away either by the laws of nature or by the laws of men and women in our state. So what to do?

Focus on the tourist who is vital to our economy and our future. We are making great strides, but we need to provide more quality interactions for the tourist with bars, restaurants and points of interest beachside. We need to maximize our situation, whatever it is, and look at our world through the tourist’s eyes. Folks to the south made a fortune off the sea turtle population by promoting it and teaching kids about the animals. Delray Beach, made a conscious effort to change the feel of the town for residents and tourists alike. We need to do three things: Look around and promote what we have, be proud of it, and add to it in simple ways. Commit to the fact that beach driving is going away some day and we need to be ready for that. And finally, as my good friend, Jim Murrill (Manager at Adam’s Mark) said, “Too much talk – live in the moment.”