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State Transportation Department Asks Flagler Beach Police to Crack Down on A1A Rock Art

| April 7, 2017

rock formations flagler beach

Cool, but illegal. (© FlaglerLive)

Storms this week caused some erosion damage along State Road A1A in Flagler Beach–not from the sea against the dunes, but from rainwater pushing toward the sea. City Manager Larry Newsom said the removal of rocks from dune revetments along a recently rebuilt stretch of A1A may have been at least partially to blame.


People have been using rocks of different sizes to built rock formations, some of them quite tall, along the east side of A1A at the south end of town. The rock formations have broken up the drabness and ugliness of the emergency repair works of the road but, Newsom said, may have also contributed to the recent damage. 

On Thursday, Flagler Beach Police Chief Matthew Doughney got a stern letter from Alan Hyman, the director of transportation operations at District 5 of the state Department of Transportation, asking him to crack down on trespassers removing the rocks from the revetments. 

“The rocks and revetment are property of the Florida Department of Transportation, support the roadway, and removal of such could cause a potential threat to public safety or welfare,” Hyman wrote. “Further the Department has not given consent to the removal.” He cited a trespassing law, and asked the police chief to enforce it. 

Flagler Beach City Manager Larry Newsom said residents and visitors should not worry about suddenly getting arrested. It’s going to be a more congenial approach. 

Gov. Rick Scott in Flagler Beach last week, with City Manager Larry Newsom. (© FlaglerLive)

Flagler Beach City Manager Larry Newsom talking beaches with Gov. Rick Scott last fall. (© FlaglerLive)

“The first thing the police will do, because I have a great police department, is walk out and say listen, you can’t do that,” Newsom said. “We’re not going to start arresting people. We’ll do what we’ve always done as a police department, we’ll tell people, listen, stop doing it. We’re not going to take an overly aggressive approach on this.” 

The city’s police officers will have copies of the transportation department’s letter (see below), so if rock enthusiasts ask why they can’t build rock structures, the officers can unholster the letter. But, Newsom cautioned, officers will still have the authority to make arrests if mere persuasion doesn’t work. (Trespassing is a misdemeanor.)

And people who are walking over the reventments to make their way to the beach, for lack of walkways, should not worry, even though that, too, amounts to trespassing. Newsom, who recognizes the lack of walk-overs, said the city will not make an issue of that, or bother people over it.  

“If they’re not moving rocks, my police department is not going to arrest people for that, but if you start moving rocks around or sand,” Newsom said, it’ll be a different story. The rocks “are there to protect the slopes, so now officially DOT has asked us to help them do that.” 

“Those rocks are there for sediment control,” he added. 

The rocks were put down earlier this year as part of the emergency reconstruction project of A1A, parts of which had been sheared off by Hurricane Matthew. The more permanent solution to the A1A fix will be built in about 18 months. Newsom cautioned that it’s in residents’ interest to help protect the rock revetments and the structure of the temporary fix, otherwise, if A1A fails again, traffic will once again be diverted onto Central Avenue, as it was for weeks after Matthew. Residents and businesses along the way did not like that. 

But even Hyman concluded in his letter to the police chief (who could not be reached today): “Please be advised that you are not authorized to engage in any activity which would constitute a violation of anyone’s civil rights,” perhaps hinting at trepidation over First Amendment issues, “and are to follow existing legal guidance as to the methods used.”

The State Department of Transportation’s Letter to Chief Matt Doughney (2017)

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39 Responses for “State Transportation Department Asks Flagler Beach Police to Crack Down on A1A Rock Art”

  1. Duncan says:

    Oh please. Good luck convincing anyone with half a brain that the displacement of few rocks is to blame for latest A1A washout. The police might as well be toting a letter from Alan Hyman claiming the Moon is made of cheese.

    Sh*t happens, don’t blame a few creative individuals for an act of Mother Nature, you weren’t complaining about the “rock art” weeks before that hellacious rain that caused the washout.

  2. YankeeExPat says:

    Mr Slate is going to be pissed off !

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qpGx4foRdPw

    “Yabba-Dabba-Doo!”

  3. Sw says:

    The road washes out in a rainstorm and this genius is worried about rock formations SMH

  4. Dave says:

    What an obvious attempt at misdirection by the State. Your work wasn’t good enough ,own up to it and fix it right, don’t blame it on the residents.

  5. Mark101 says:

    oh NO, the rock art has caused AIA to fail, break out the news trucks, get the press cranking. Talk about your nut case setting in the Director of Transportations seat. Lets blame rock art and not mother nature or just a piss poor fix em up quick job.

  6. Jo says:

    The stacking has become so prominent from S 10th down, I absolutely believe it can/does/will contribute to washouts.

  7. Lazaruis says:

    I am glad the officers in blue will be taking a relaxed stand on this issue . I hope nobody gets hurt by these freedom of expression artists as a rock is apparantly to be considered a state owned weapon of mass destruction when moved !
    Give me a break ,
    I think Mr. Hyman is overreacting about his rocks !!

  8. Sandi Sites says:

    Actually, I was complaining about the “rock art” weeks ago, and the fact that is is trespassing, not to mention dangerous to walk on the non-dunes. And then the fact that Newsom says, “And people who are walking over the reventments to make their way to the beach, for lack of walkways, should not worry, even though that, too, amounts to trespassing. Newsom, who recognizes the lack of walk-overs, said the city will not make an issue of that, or bother people over it.” is certainly ridiculous – if there is not a walk over – GO TO WHERE THERE IS ONE. Walking over and scrambling down to the beach is as destructive of the temporary fix as anything else.

  9. Kathy A says:

    Dont try and build any sand castles either.

  10. Dawn says:

    Actually, a lot of us didn’t think it was cool. And using your words “anyone with half a brain” would know those rocks were placed there for a reason, not for your art. Now, I’m not saying the rock art formations were totally to blame for the erosion bug it didn’t help.

  11. Leslie Yazurlo says:

    DOT and Flagler Beach Police Dept. Should have more impressing issues to deal with them the cairns being built along A1A. Flagler Beach has managed to retain the small town beach atmosphere that makes it such a great pace to live and visit. The cairns or rock formations are an added uniqueness to the town and I feel attracts more people to come see and spend more revenue to support our town. I have spoken to many people visiting Flagler Beach while walking my dog who have told me that the cairns are artistic and it’s wonderful to see the town’s people have made the town friendlier to visit and feel welcome. The rocks aren’t being removed from the beach they are still there holding the sand in places and besides it’s not huge rocks that are being used it’s the smaller ones. The rain deluge we had yesterday wouldn’t have caused a bit of trouble except for tree damage already done by Matthew. Furthermore if the city had fixed the road and not decided to wait until a hurricane did the damage we wouldn’t be having this discussion. These rock formations are alot nicer to look at than the 2 foot cement barrier that is along A1A. I would much rather see the rocks than the wall for the next 2 yrs while we wait for DOT to fix A1A.

  12. Stephani Hernandez says:

    It’s not a few rocks, there are piles and piles and piles. They look neat but it’s enough to affect structural integrity.

  13. Marlee says:

    Come on up to the Marineland beach area….lots of loose Coquina rocks begging to be stacked….

    We have been stacking for years.
    BUT… do not take or remove from the beach.

  14. beachcomberT says:

    Tourists spend thousands to travel to England and Scotland to see similar piles of stones. Why not just dump a couple of additional truckloads of boulders so the artistic types can continue being creative?

  15. Rich says:

    The washout is a direct result of using minimum wage non union workers.

  16. Richard Smith says:

    Really???? Are you Kidding???? Well you have just solidified my opinion of our Florida Highway Transportation Department and their abilities to fix anything!

  17. Jay says:

    Anyone with half a brain can read all the NO TRESSPASSING signs posted up and down A1A where the rocks are. Regardless weather or not moving them had anything to do with the washout is irrelevant to me. The fact of the matter is the point that you people can’t always get or do what you want to. Follow the rules and stay off the dunes. FBPD should take action. End of story

  18. C says:

    I saw a young girl doing this near Marineland also. Very disturbing as her parents stood there watching and helping her getting the ricks.

  19. Floridian says:

    Finally ! What started as a single creative act has been turned into quite an obsession. Enough, already! It might not be the only reason for the dunes erosion but it is definitely one of them. Every time someone is puling the rock out of it’s place the balance is disturbed, the empty patch is created and those empty places are being filled with water during the storm. Signs and enforcement of the rules will hopefully put the end to this insanity.

  20. Floridian says:

    Have you seen the south part lately? Those are not just a”few” rocks that were misplaced. It is insanity! I am sure the “creative individuals” truly believe in their connection with mother-nature when they creative those hideous structures. But at the end of the day all they do is destroying the dunes. Fools.

  21. Vic32164 says:

    Crazy! Those rock formations are the only thing worth looking at along that stretch of road. In fact those rock formations have drawn in spectators who have in turn spent money at various Flagler businessess. How in the world can they be to blame? We had a natural disaster that has turned into a Natural inspiration. Just maybe the time would be well spent somewhere else, enforcing something else. #rocklivesmatter

  22. happening now says:

    Used to be so many shells on beach made for a barrier for run offs. Those days are gone, but where did they go?

  23. Chuck says:

    A million rocks laid down and they’re worried about a couple hundred small ones that people have gotten creative with. What a bunch of knuckleheads. I drive A1A all the time and look forward to the rock formations. I think it adds a bit of fun to the drive.

  24. Ken Dodge says:

    No letter ever written that begins with the phrase “It has come to my/our attention . . .” has ever failed to make me smile, smirk, and chuckle (and even guffaw). I especially appreciate the disclaimer in the final sentence that essentially states that nothing in the preceding text can be used as an excuse by the recipient to get into trouble in doing his job.

  25. Concerned Citizen says:

    The rocks were laid down to protect the temporary repairs and slow down erosion. The stacks have gone from cute little piles to rather large ones clearly taken from important areas.

    The sense of entitlement on this subject is astounding. If there are laws in place to protect the environment then those laws apply to everyone. That means don’t walk on the dunes and don’t use construction materials to ‘express yourself”

    If the area was already marked no trespassing how can you use The First Amendment as protection? Just curious on that issue.

    If an area is posted no trespassing it’s probably meant to try and keep you safe. While I think the states letter is a bit heavy handed I do believe it was time for a warning.

    Hopefully FBPD can find a tactful way to make people more aware but we still need to follow the rules.

  26. Smarterthanmost says:

    Quit worrying about the rock formations and get something planted, or lay some sod. Leaving the shoulder exposed is a bigger problem than stacking some rocks.

  27. Kris says:

    What if I bring my own rocks? I have a big pile in my back yard. Can I bring them and build with them? I’m sorry if the few of you who don’t like them would ease up a bit instead of blasting one of the more visually appealing results of the storm you might see that they are definitely better to look at than a concrete barrier. If you would rather see those then move to the city.

  28. Marshall says:

    Bottom line people you remove the rocks or step on the vegitation by the dunes and kill them wich root systems hold the dunes together as well but you ruin the steuctural integrity of the dunes that keep the shore line from going further back. We have in last 50 years lost about 10 to 15 feet of shoreline. If it keeps up that means a1a will be gone in most places in next few decades if we dont keep the dunes and rock walls protected. Be creative by all means but respect your home for the future generations who will also call it home.

  29. mothers worry2 says:

    are you serious? Anyone who knows anything about the flooding history of the 20th street south A1A area knows what a problem this area has been when heavy rain occurs. That is the very reason the City convinced FDOT to construct deeper, more pronounced drainage swales, in the right-of-way fronting Martins Restaurant along with directly in front of the two story brown house on the corner of A1A and 20th South, approximately 3 years ago. Now, with the temporary A1A “patch”, the road height has been increased. With the increased height, coupled with heavy rain, the water naturally runs toward a lower ground point; and over the dune. The “rock art” has nothing to do with it. This is a flawed design engineering issue. Nice try by both the City and FDOT to redirect the cause to the miniscule rock formations. What a diversion for the City to ask FDOT to write such a letter as if FDOT even knew about the wash-out. Of course, by doing so, the City can now point to FDOT as to why the Police must enforce the “no trespassing”. Blame it on outside entity! Nice try!

  30. Cecil says:

    I wonder if it is ok to bring your own rocks to create rock art there?
    Extra rocks could not hurt their design.

  31. anon2 says:

    You should be building ‘swales’ for all the standing water along A1A after it rains, and pipes going from those swales down to the beaches like homeowners who live along canals have. THAT right there would also help cut down on erosion along the beaches from massive rain storms.

  32. Kim says:

    Finally. “The rules don’t apply to ME” people drive me crazy.

  33. FlaglerIsMyHome says:

    So tired of seeing these “formations” and the hippy-dippy people that “build” them. Just leave well enough alone. I’d be shocked if these “artists” were actually residents…

  34. Banjomatic says:

    This can only be headed to the US Supreme Court. Gorsuch will fry somebody’s ass!

  35. Charlene Yazurlo says:

    It seems to me that the rock statues were created by some think-outside-the-box folks, trying to make the best out of a bad situation due to the A1A eyesore–the ugly concrete barrier. Rather than having to drive by that atrocious cement “wall” for the next two years, perhaps a compromise could be found by our city. I read some good ideas–bringing our own rocks, requesting a truckload, etc. The statues were visually appealing and were beneficial for businesses. They made our community unique.

  36. TERRY L. HOWARD says:

    I like the rock Carins, tho i must admit while beautiful, they are a distraction. at this time they are all gone, while very interesting, and i was looking at them while traveling in either direction, i should have been looking at the road way for people crossing the road, bicyclists , guys crossing over to fish, little kids with their pails.
    Cars / trucks pulling onto A 1 A ——— don’t it always seem to go, You Don’t Know What Ya Got Till Its Gone
    :-(

  37. Denali says:

    Certainly is nice to see that we have so many individuals who are “self-qualified” to design structures for retaining the sands along A1A. Problem is I only see one with the letters PE after his name; by law, he is the only one qualified to do so. Please allow me to try and help the wannabes understand the theory involved. The smaller stones are actually the most important part of the retention structure. The larger stones form a base but if left alone would allow for massive amounts of water to flow through and erode all the underlying sand. The smaller rocks fill the voids between the larger and form a cap for the structure thus displacing and slowing the flow of runoff. So removing the smaller rocks for whatever reason will undermine the integrity of the structure and add to the erosion problems.

    However, the real problem is the simple fact that man cannot build a structure to stop the eternal movements of storms, tides and winds. These are ‘barrier islands’; they are natures sacrificial means of protecting the mainland. Look at the older charts of the area for the locations of Ponce Inlet, Matanzas or St. Augustine; things move. Eventually Flagler Beach, the Hammocks and a bunch of prime Daytona Beach real estate will be lost to the sea. Unless, of course, man spends extraordinary amounts of time and money to postpone the inevitable.

  38. Flagler citizen says:

    Y’all are really worried about the rocks? They’re a work of art and many people including I, actually enjoy seeing the art. It doesn’t surprise me that people are complaining about the rocks, y’all people are just looking for something to complain about these days, it’s pretty pathetic.

  39. Brittany says:

    This is the biggest load of bs ever. People aren’t moving boulders. Aren’t street lights and traffic lights more important than people making small stacks of rocks at the beach?

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