So pay attention, for the court's decision could affect your summer plans.
Let me explain.
Do you remember when Hurricane/Tropical Storm Ida hit a few weeks ago? In The Star was a picture of a condo with waves crashing under it. It looked like the whole thing was about to topple.
That condo was on Holiday Isle, the spit of sand that protects Destin Harbor on the Florida panhandle. The beach there is almost gone.
Here is what happened. (I will try to make it simple because, trust me, it ain't.)
When people built on Holiday Isle and on Okaloosa Island to the west, there were dunes and there was beach. The people who built there felt what was between them and high tide was theirs.
But the roads built to bring beachfront owners to their property also brought in tourists who felt the beach belonged to everyone. Beachfront owners got upset. Some even called the cops.
Then the storms came and washed away big bunches of beach.
Since no one wants to visit a beach if there is no beach, local leaders made plans to bring in sand to restore what was lost.
But who would own the restored beach?
Those doing the restoring said the new beach will belong to the public because the public is paying for it. Hearing this, some beachfront owners said they did not want theirs to be restored and went to court. And as the case wound its way through the system, the restoration went ahead — paid for by a special assessment levied on Destin and Okaloosa Island owners.
But some residents of Okaloosa Island said their beaches did not need restoring and they objected to paying the assessment.
Better follow me, 'cause it gets tricky here.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers wants to dredge the pass between Holiday Isle and Okaloosa Island. Someone suggested that a good place to put the dredged sand would be on the eroded beaches of Holiday Isle, which is where the sand came from in the first place. (Most scientists say that the sand drifts from east to west, and Holiday Isle is east of the pass.)
When this was proposed, some folks on Okaloosa Island, which does not need sand, objected to the sand being put on Holiday Isle, which needs sand, because that sand eventually would have reached Okaloosa Island. And the Okaloosa folks (who have plenty of sand) don't want to give up the sand that they would get but haven't yet to Holiday Isle, which needs it.
Still with me?
More suits and countersuits.
Meanwhile, the pass needs dredging.
Meanwhile, condos on Holiday Isle need sand to protect them.
Meanwhile, the case to determine who owns the beach keeps moving ahead.
And back in Destin, it gets nasty.
A commentary war rages in the online edition of The Destin Log (www.thedestinlog.com), where partisans with cute little names like "sand bug," "scubaqueen" and "destinista" whale away at each other, claiming they have science, the law and moral integrity on their side, and that their opposition is either a bunch of land-grabbing socialists or "sand fascists," you take your pick.
And the Supreme Court is gonna sort this out?
Now, I can see both sides of the argument.
If people buy beachfront property, they expect the beachfront to be theirs.
And if a beach is built with public money, it stands to reason that it is a public beach.
But if beachfront owners don't want their beaches restored and turned public, should they be allowed to opt out of the plan and keep the public off "their" beach?
Likewise, how do you restore one part of the beach and not another? Beaches protect what is inland. Should a few people be allowed to reject this protection? What will this do to insurance rates for everyone else?
And then there is a little thing called "customary use," which the law says counts for something. It has been customary for people to go to the beach and use the beach for far longer than most beachfront owners have "owned" it. Should this use be denied?
Yep, I can see all sides.
I can see that the Supreme Court has a mess on its hands.
And I can see that no matter what the court decides, they will feel the effect in Panama City, Pensacola, Orange Beach, Gulf Shores, Dauphin Island and all along the Redneck Riviera.
So get ready.
You may want to change vacation plans. Or look at a condo in the mountains.
Harvey H. ("Hardy") Jackson is Eminent Scholar in History at Jacksonville State University and a columnist and editorial writer for The Star. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.