HOLMES BEACH (WFLA) – There’s growing frustration over a longtime beach access point along Holmes Beach.

The walkway at the end of 78th Street was recently blocked off to the public. Neighbors say private homeowners at the end of the street recently posted “private property” and “keep out” signs in front of the walkway that residents and visitors have used for decades.

Many residents and visitors are speaking out against the move. Neighbors have launched a petition aiming to get the access point reopened to the public.

“Beach access is now being threatened. If two owners can do this at the end of one street, others will be doing this to other beach access points all over AMI [Anna Maria Island],” said residents who launched the petition.

“I’ve been coming here for about five years and we have used the access. I just kind of think it is a shame that it has been closed off,” visitor Ronnie Roath said.

The city’s mayor declined an on-camera interview with 8 On Your Side Thursday. She described the situation on 78th St. as a “private property dispute” and said there is nothing in the past easement stating that the walking path “benefitted the public or city.”

“I have asked the city attorney to continue to research any additional documentation that we receive that states otherwise. Thankfully we have public beach accesses on each neighboring street end which benefits the public and allows continued beach access for both our residents and guests,” Mayor Judy Titsworth said in an email Thursday. “Although this may add a few additional steps to reach the access points for some, we are blessed to have a city in which it’s founding fathers understood the importance in providing many beach accesses throughout that serve the public.”

Elected officials in Manatee County say they’ve been hearing from residents on and off the island regarding the situation on 78th Street.

“I am very troubled by this trend of cutting off beach access to the public,” said commission chairman Kevin Van Ostenbridge. “Our citizens own the beaches. There are no private beaches in Manatee County.”

Van Ostenbridge has been vocal regarding public access to the beach.

Over the last two years, the city and the county have been at odds over reduced parking on the island. That change came shortly after the start of the pandemic. City officials said beachgoers were turning residents’ front yards into parking lots.

Attorneys for the two homeowners near the beach path have not responded to 8 On Your Side’s request for comment.