Por Marianela Toledo | Florida Watchdog
MIAMI —Florida should be a treasure hunter’s dream come true. Except it’s not.
Its sand and sea hide riches of the past, thanks to the state’s Spanish colonizers of the 1500s and treasure-laden ships that sank off shores.
Until recently, you didn’t have needed to dig very deep to find valuable booty. With a metal detector, you easily could unearthed treasures left behind by forgetful beachgoers.
A Tiffany & Co. platinum wedding band worth more than $2,000, a 3/4-carat diamond ring, a 2-carat ruby ring and a mint-condition Rolex Submariner watch are just a few of the riches Gary Drayton recovered during his metal-hunting days. His best find was a 9-carat Spanish-era emerald ring.
But that may be the end of it for Drayton and his treasure-seeking ilk.
While it’s legal to use metal detectors at Florida’s Atlantic and Gulf Coast state parks, Drayton told Florida Watchdog, treasure hunters have to get permission from the park manager and hunt only on the dry, sandy beach between the high water line and the sand dune.
The Florida Division of Recreation & Parks Department of Environmental Protection says the restriction is to ensure the “preservation and protection of archaeological resources.”
Now, it seems, cities are getting into the act.
“If you lose your watch in the sea, even close to shore, I can’t help you find it with a detector because I’m violating the law,” Drayton said. “They can fine me and I can go to jail.”
The laws were enacted years ago when the state began approving licenses for marine exploration.
If you hunt offshore, where big treasure awaits discovery, you will need a lot more than a metal detector. Along with special permits, there are numerous regulations and procedures to be met before you can even think about digging. If you actually do hit it big under the seat, the state’s takes a 20-percent share of your booty.
Drayton said he doesn’t get too worked up about the state’s heavy handedness in hoarding left-behind objects of value because he’s in it purely for entertainment.
Besides, his greatest discoveries didn’t come from the beach.
“The first treasure I found was my wife, whom I met in Mexico, then my two adopted daughters and then America, the land of opportunity,” Drayton said. “It has been since I got here I found treasures and opportunities everywhere.”
Drayton has written six books on finding treasure with metal detectors. He also conducts conferences throughout the country.
Florida Division of Recreation & Parks Department of Environmental Protection did not return calls seeking comment.
Contact Marianela Toledo at Marianela.Toledo@FloridaWatchdog.org twitter @mtoledoreporter