VILANO BEACH, Fla. – Many St. Johns County residents were relieved Tuesday to learn that driving on the beach at Porpoise Point in Vilano Beach is still allowed and will continue.
The St. Johns County Board of Commissioners met Tuesday morning to discuss safety concerns and preservation in regards to driving on the beach.
At the commission meeting, more than a dozen public commenters spoke in support of vehicle traffic, saying there are few places left in the county where driving on the beach is allowed.
Many of the commenters were disabled and said if it weren’t for being able to drive their car up to the ocean, they wouldn’t be able to visit the beach.
Patricia DiMuzio has lived nearby for almost three decades. She said as long as people are being responsible, she thinks they should be allowed to drive and park on the beach.
“It’s the only way they can get there. They can’t park on General Road, they can’t park on Porpoise Point Road. How else do they get here?” DiMuzio told News4Jax before the meeting. "And the beach God made for everybody."
The discussion comes after recent closures due to damage from hurricanes and erosion. Several times last year, cars were not able to come down and park on the beach because it was a matter of public safety. Beach erosion from hurricanes Matthew and Irma and the tide conditions forced the county to close the beach to cars for certain periods of time.
Residents said they were worried cars driving on the beach could make the erosion worse.
The commission said it will continue to keep the beach open as often as possible, but said closures are imminent when there's severe weather or wildlife needs to be protected.
There were also concerns from residents about careless driving, especially at night, and the commission said it will continue to work with the St. Johns County Sheriff's Office to make sure anyone breaking the rules is held accountable.
At the meeting, the commission said that some residents thought the county planned to permanently close the beach to traffic, but the commission clarified that is not true.
Drivers have access on the beach as long as it’s safe and not at night during turtle nesting season.
Ahead of Tuesday's meeting, St. Johns County spokesperson Michael Ryan said that the staff recommended it stay that way as long as there is enough sand to support pedestrian and vehicle traffic.