EGLIN AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. - Since returning here and taking command of the 96th Test Wing in June, I’m reminded of just how special this area is and how fortunate we are to live and work in such a military-friendly community.
With 464,000 acres of land ranges, Eglin spans three counties and is one of 13 major range and test facility bases in the Department of Defense.
The test areas within our borders provide a center of development, testing and deployment of lethal air power to support essential Department of Defense missions. Many of these areas also provide refuge for a wide range of natural communities and 106 rare and endangered plant and animal species, as well as a wealth of Cultural Resources dating back thousands of years.
We are host to many hazardous activities that include training missions conducted by Air Force Special Operations Command, the U.S. Army’s 6th Ranger Training Battalion and 7th Special Forces Group, as well as operators from every branch of service.
These activities are mainly restricted to the Closed Test Areas and occur daily on Eglin’s reservation.
Over time, our Closed Test Areas on Santa Rosa Island that stretch west of the El Matador Condominiums all the way to Navarre Beach, have become an easy target for trespassers who want to take advantage of the secluded charm of Eglin’s closed beaches.
Despite the abundance of warning signs in place instructing beachgoers to stay out of Air Force Closed Areas, we are seeing an unacceptable level of trespassers ignoring the signage and causing mission impacts and damaging fragile habitat critical to many species.
Due to unauthorized activities, and to preserve and protect this national asset on the Eglin reservation, our team has installed barriers and additional signage on the east and west sides of Eglin’s Santa Rosa Island Closed Areas to further discourage trespassing.
Additionally, our security forces will increase patrols in these areas and will begin issuing trespass citations to those who continue to violate our Closed Test Areas.
Further, our security forces, with assistance from local and state law enforcement, will also monitor the Santa Rosa Sound and cite individuals/boaters who are beaching and trespassing on the north side of the island.
As a good neighbor, Eglin maintains four other public beach access points on the island – Eglin Beach Club (for DoD card holders), the Matterhorn, Princess Beach and the old Airman’s Beach Club. Each of these areas is available to beachgoers with a free permit - See https://eglin.isportsman.net/Beaches.aspx.
We will continue to search for appropriate solutions to improve safety and eliminate unauthorized trespassing on federal property. As we determine these solutions, we will communicate them with the community to avoid any confusion in the future.
I appreciate your cooperation ensuring the safety of our community while protecting the vital national security missions we execute on Eglin Air Force Base and the Eglin reservation.