Pensacola tweaks beach ban ahead of Memorial Day gays

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Gay beach-goers about to flood Pensacola for Memorial Day faced a first-ever crackdown on their trashy mess. But now, officials are loosening a ban on overnight party supplies.

On Thursday, the Santa Rosa Island Authority granted a special permit to Pensacola Beach resident Johnny Chisholm. That allows the longtime party promoter and Emerald City owner to host his LGBT events without facing a ban on leaving personal items on the beach overnight – a tradition at the sexy celebration to claim party spots on the crowded beaches.

In August, Escambia County passed the Leave No Trace Behind ordinance to deal with large beach events – including the LGBT celebration over Memorial Day Weekend – that left Pensacola Beach a trashy mess. The ordinance banned leaving personal items – think tents, coolers and more – after sunset while also prohibiting overnight camping and campfires. 

But with the special event permit, attendees to the parties that Chisholm hosts on a slice of the beach will be allowed to leave personal items overnight. Overnight campaign, though, is still banned. 

“We have worked with the Santa Rosa Island Authority and Escambia County for 20 years and are happy to continue our relationship,” Chisholm said. “We want everyone to have a fun and safe Memorial Weekend. We just want to make sure our beaches are protected and are here for our community to enjoy for years to come.”

The permit softens the ban between beach walkover 28A (dog park) to one-quarter mile east of beach walkover 29D (University of West Florida boundary). Personal items can be left there overnight, from Friday through Monday.

The permit for Chisholm means that he – not Escambia County – is responsible for cleanup after the big gay holiday. And that can be messy.

As part of the special event permit requirements, cleanup is the permit holder's responsibility for the permitted area, thus placing the burden of cleanup costs on the special event permit holder rather than the taxpayers of Escambia County.

Only Chisholm applied for the special event permit. It's not clear how the events of other LGBT event organizers may be impacted by the new ordinance.

Since Memorial Day is the first big event since the new ordinance took effect, Escambia County officials will be issuing warnings and trying to educate the big crowds during the weekend.

We ask that when you leave Pensacola Beach to return home, please be sure to “Leave No Trace”:

  • Fill in any holes in the sand and knock down sand sculptures to remove obstacles blocking sea turtles’ nesting activities.
  • Properly dispose of trash and discarded gear. Sea turtles can become entangled in old fishing nets and lines or ingest plastic bags and wrappers, mistaking them for jellyfish.
  • Remove all personal belongings from the beach. If you are unable to take the items with you, please use one of the six roll-away dumpsters provided by Escambia County. 

It is imperative that when visiting Pensacola Beach, you pick up all trash and leave our beaches in their natural beautiful state. Enjoy our beaches, have a great time and please leave only your footprints!

[photo via]


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