It may be tempting to pick the palmetto berries you see while hiking Flagler County public lands, but county ordinance has deemed it unlawful — and doing so can result in a pretty hefty fine.
According to a release from Flagler County on August 8, The Flagler County Sheriff's Office has already arrested several trespassers who were picking palmetto berries at county parks on the 1st of August.
"Then this morning our caretaker at River to Sea walked outside and saw several guys with berry picking apparatus. They took off and left their gear when they saw him,” said Flagler County Public Lands and Natural Resource Manager Mike Lagasse.
“While some private property owners allow the harvesting of the berries with permission, picking palmetto berries is not allowed on Flagler County owned or managed preserves and parks.”
The Flagler County ordinance not only deems the picking of these berries unlawful, but it also prohibits the removal of soil, rock, sand, stones, trees, shrubs, plants, or wood materials. Those who violate this ordinance can expect to pay a penalty of up to $500.
“Palmetto berry harvesting activities reduce the amount of food available for wildlife and can create unwanted trails and debris on our public lands,” Lagasse said. “These berry pickers are working in hazardous conditions, damaging our parks, and interrupting food sources for our native wildlife. Out-of-county private companies profit off it. Also, keep in mind Gopher tortoises are a threatened wildlife species and are protected by state law.”
According to the release, this palmetto berry harvesting has been problematic for private property owners and for the county's many natural areas including MalaCompra Park, River-to-Sea Preserve, and Varn Park in northeastern Flagler County. Other areas of concern include Haw Creek Preserve, Princess Place Preserve, Shell Bluff, and Betty Steflik Preserve.
“People might say they have permission to pick the berries, but this is absolutely untrue of Flagler County public lands. Palmetto berries are an important wildlife food,” Lagasse said. “There are no licenses in effect for individuals to harvest palmetto berries from county-owned properties.”
Those who suspect they have seen someone harvesting palmetto berries on county-owned property are asked to report it to Lagasse at 386-313-4064 or call the Flagler County Sheriff’s non-emergency number, 386-313-4911.
Article by Rachael Volpe