If you’ve been to Navarre Beach this summer, raise your hand. If you’ve gone jet skiing in the Sound, or paddleboarding in the Gulf, raise your hand. If you’ve gone snorkeling on the reefs, raise your hand.
There’s no doubt that Navarre Beach is our greatest asset. Whether it’s attracting tourism or full-time residents, that white sand and emerald-color water isn’t just our playground, it’s part of our economic foundation.
It’s been almost 10 years since the beach was last renourished – which is obvious to anyone who’s spent time there recently – and the next round is about to begin. The price tag? $18 million.
The county has $2.3 million in federal funding, $2.75 in state funding, and $2 million from the one-cent tourism tax enacted last year.
That leaves us with a balance of $11.35 million, which the county would like to split with leaseholders, resulting in $5.68 million each.
Less than 1,300 people live on the beach, which pales in comparison to the amount of visitors the beach sees each year. And we’re not talking about tourists from out of state – we’re talking about Santa Rosa County residents who benefit from this gem. Why should the leaseholders, who, by the way, already pay lease fees and property taxes, be required to split the amount with the county?
Say your road needs repaving. Does the county hand you a bill for 50 percent of the cost? Of course not. So why should beach renourishment be any different? We’re pretty sure more people in the county use the beach than use your road. Let’s say beach residents didn’t pay a leaseholders fee. They do pay property taxes, just like the rest of us. They’re doing their part, just like the rest of us. So why are they responsible for protecting the beach when we all use it?
We also need to consider how much revenue Navarre Beach brings to the county. No doubt Navarre is the cash cow. Have you eaten at Juana’s lately? Five percent of your tab went right back to the county. Have you taken a walk on the pier? A cut of that money goes right back to the county.
Navarre residents, as well as those from Milton, Pace, Gulf Breeze and Jay, shouldn’t get a free ride when it comes to renourishment.
The beach is not some insular location where only some people enjoy themselves. It belongs to all of us. And we should all pay our fair share.