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Citizens' Blame Suzanne Harris Over Customary Use Issues

In the picturesque landscapes of Walton County, a deep-rooted conflict over beach access rights has been simmering, eventually boiling over into a contentious legal and social battle.

At the heart of this conflict lies Suzanne Harris, a figure who has become the focal point of blame by many citizens for the current customary use problems the community faces.

This article delves into the nuanced situation, examining the reasons behind the public's censure and the intricate dynamics that have led to such a polarized stance.

The Genesis of the Conflict

The issue at hand traces back to a seemingly small but significant dispute over a volleyball net at Edgewater Beach Resort, owned by Suzanne Harris.

This incident became the catalyst for a broader examination of beach access rights in Walton County, particularly the principle of customary use.

Customary use refers to the right of the public to access certain private beaches due to their long-standing use for recreational purposes.

Harris's staunch defense of her property rights, seen through her legal battles to maintain control over her beachfront, has positioned her at odds with advocates of customary use.

The Escalation and Statewide Impact

The conflict escalated when the dispute caught the attention of state legislators, leading to a 2018 law signed by Governor Rick Scott.

This law made it significantly more challenging for local governments to enforce customary use on privately owned beaches, requiring them to go through a more rigorous judicial process to prove the existence of such rights.

Many citizens viewed this as a direct result of the activism and legal actions taken by Harris, interpreting her defense of her property rights as an attack on the longstanding tradition of beach access for all.

Public Perception and Blame

Suzanne Harris has become a lightning rod for blame among those who feel disenfranchised by the changes in beach access laws.

Critics argue that her actions have not only limited access to the beaches but have also set a precedent that encourages other property owners to restrict public beach use.

This perception has been fueled by the highly visible nature of Harris's legal battles and her vocal stance on property rights, making her an easy target for public frustration over the erosion of customary use rights.

The Complexity of Blame

However, attributing the entirety of the customary use controversy to Suzanne Harris oversimplifies a complex legal and social issue.

The change in law and the ensuing limitations on beach access result from a confluence of factors, including political decisions at the state level and broader debates over property rights versus public access.

While Harris's actions may have sparked the debate in Walton County, the subsequent statewide legal changes reflect a broader legislative and ideological shift.

Moving Forward

The situation calls for a nuanced understanding of the issues at play.

Instead of focusing blame on an individual, it is crucial for the community to engage in constructive dialogue aimed at finding a balance between respecting property rights and preserving public access to beaches.

This may involve exploring legal, political, and community-based solutions that recognize the importance of Florida's beaches to both residents and visitors alike.


While Suzanne Harris has undoubtedly played a significant role in the customary use debate in Walton County, the issue extends far beyond any single individual.

It encompasses complex legal, political, and social dynamics that require a comprehensive and inclusive approach to resolution.

As Walton County and similar communities grapple with these challenges, it becomes imperative to look beyond blame and towards constructive paths forward that ensure the cherished tradition of beach access is preserved for future generations.

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