Tourism leader supports beach access for pups

This article appeared in the Northwest Florida Daily News on Tuesday, May 2, 2017.

Like other parts of Northwest Florida, Okaloosa County could attract a lot more economy-boosting visitors by opening a portion of its beaches to dogs.

That’s according to Martin Owen, a Shalimar-based tourism industry consultant who regularly attends Tourist Development Council meetings.

“It’s niche tourism we can attract, particularly out of season,” he said Thursday. “A lot of dog owners tend to like traveling with their dogs. Our neighboring counties are addressing this, and so is Okaloosa.”

County Marine Economic and Tourist Development Resource Coordinator Erika Zambello shared information with the TDC on Thursday about dog-friendly beaches in Walton County and Pensacola Beach in Escambia County. But she said she has not had any discussions with other Okaloosa County officials about establishing a dog-friendly section of beach.

With the exception of service animals and police dogs, dogs are prohibited on the publicly owned beaches of Okaloosa County, Destin and Santa Rosa County. In Walton County, property owners and permanent residents can bring their leashed dogs on the beach during certain hours and with a permit.

People who violate Okaloosa County’s law pertaining to dogs on the beach could be cited with a fine of at least $100. But such citations are rarely given, county officials said.

Usually, sheriff’s deputies will ask violators to remove their dogs from the beach and the dog owners do so without a problem, county spokesman Rob Brown said.

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Two smooth Collies enjoy the beach on St. George Island, Florida
Two smooth Collies enjoy the beach on St. George Island, Florida

Unintended positive consequences. Northwest Florida Daily News.

This article was printed in the Northwest Florida Daily News on Sunday, April 23, 2017.

When I first came to the Emerald Coast back in 2003, I was struck by how many people appeared to be in the real estate business. It appeared that every other person I met was a Realtor. That was before the economy took a nose dive, of course, but in the intervening years a significant number of friends and acquaintances have stayed involved in buying and selling property. That’s always a sign of a vibrant economy.

What’s that got to do with tourism, I hear you asking? Well, the largest sector of the accommodations available to visitors here are vacation rentals — whether they be condos or family homes. Invariably these are purchased not as primary residences, but as investment properties to make money over a long period or to benefit from rental income. The added value of this is that the owner of a rental property also has a beach lifestyle property for their own use.

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