Of Eglin’s 464,000 acres, about 284,000 acres can be enjoyed by people ages 16 and older who have a daily or annual recreation/fishing permit. Those younger than 16 must be with a permit holder while on the reservation.

With low temperatures, relatively few tourists and only the occasional biting insect around, wintertime is ideal for exploring nature on the Eglin Air Force Base reservation that sprawls across parts of Okaloosa, Santa Rosa and Walton counties.

Of Eglin’s 464,000 acres, about 284,000 acres can be enjoyed by people ages 16 and older who have a daily or annual recreation/fishing permit. Those younger than 16 must be with a permit holder while on the reservation.

The permits provide access to recreational opportunities such as mountain biking at the Timberlake Mountain Bike Trails by Fort Walton Beach, kayaking/canoeing on Rocky Creek by Niceville and the East Bay River by Navarre, and disc golf at Anderson Pond Recreation Area north of Niceville.

The permits, which can be purchased year-round, also are for people who enjoy hiking, running, horseback riding or bird watching on the reservation.

The $5 daily and $20 annual permits for civilians can be bought online at Eglin.iSportsman.net or at the Eglin Natural Resources Office, 107 State Road 85 N., Niceville. Applicants must first watch a seven-minute safety video before they receive a permit.

Separate permits can be purchased for activities such as hunting, camping and gathering firewood on the reservation. And free permits are available for those who want to visit Eglin-owned beaches between Destin and Fort Walton Beach.

In October 2016, signs were installed at the Eglin Destin Pass beach access — between the west side of the Marler Bridge and the west jetty — that notified visitors age 16 and older that they must obtain a free beach access permit on the iSportsman website or at the Natural Resources Office.

Eglin officials provided a "grace period" until this past October for beachgoers to get used to the rules, and then the Air Force reportedly began enforcing the use of the permits. The permit rule also applies to boaters who pull up to the beach.

To obtain an annual beach permit, applicants must watch a short educational video on the ecosystem of the beach and the dunes.

The permits are required for each of the seven Eglin beach access points between the Marler Bridge and Beasley Park.

Eglin officials have said the decision to require beach permits was made to protect the environment and ensure the safety of guests at the beach. Civilians who visit the beach without the permit face a possible $65 fine and six-month suspension from recreating on any Eglin property.

Chris Johansen, Eglin’s outdoor recreation program manager, could not be reached for comment Tuesday about the number of beach permits that have been issued so far.

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