Big Hickory Island’s landowner owner is causing controversy over access to waterways around the popular island.
The Bonita Springs island’s new landowner posted signs in the mangroves that say “Private property,” but he may have overstepped.
There could be a “liquid loophole” in Florida law that will keep access to the water open to everyone.
Joey Nelson has been kayaking along the waterways off of Big Hickory Island for a long time. When he saw the new signs and cameras he immediately figured the new owner of the land was up to something.
“He put up some signs and some cameras in the mangroves. And we were told that we were not allowed access to the Mangrove tunnels,” he said.
The big signs and tiny cameras were courtesy of David Schie. He’s working on behalf of the newly formed Bonita Springs Conservation Association.
The group decided the open waters where locals spent hours and hours of their lives were now private property.
“What you were doing your whole life, suddenly, one day it was like you couldn’t do that anymore,” Nelson said.
The only problem for the Bonita Springs Conservation Association – there may be a liquid loophole.
Nelson told WINK News Florida law says any navigable waterway is public property.
If you were out kayaking the water there, the water you’re on is considered public, but the sand underneath it is private.
Stick your paddle in the water, you’re good.
Stick your paddle in the sand you’re on somebody else’s land.
Nelson said, “If we’re not able to access this, thousands of people will not be able to enjoy this anymore.”
WINK News reached out to the state to get their say on the liquid loophole. FWC responded by saying they’re looking into what’s happening there and whether the property owner actually has rights to the water before deciding if he can restrict access.
WINK News also tried to talk to the new landowner but he has yet to return calls.