- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 8, 2000

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. Gentlemen, stop your engines.

Daytona Beach, which built its all-American, fun-in-the-sun image on muscle cars racing across the sand, has put the brakes on beach cruising.

As of last Wednesday, the dragsters, dune buggies and other vehicles that have been part of the city's beaches for nearly a century have been banned from a one-mile strip in the heart of Daytona Beach's tourist district.

It's both an effort to clean up Daytona Beach's racy reputation and a condition set by the developers of Ocean Walk, a $200 million condominium and retail development scheduled to open next year. The developers believe that cars cruising the beach would lower property values.

Cruising the beach has been something of a trademark of this city of 65,000, home to NASCAR's Daytona 500. On any given day, hundreds of cars, trucks, golf carts and all-terrain vehicles rumble along the hard-sand strip, blasting music from their stereos and cutting doughnuts in the sand.

Drivers still have much of the beach for cruising. Sixteen of the 23 miles of beach in the area will remain open to vehicles. But from International Speedway Boulevard to Seabreeze Boulevard, drivers will have to park their vehicles at a new garage and take the tram to reach the beach.

"Driving on the beach is steeped in tradition here because of auto racing and testing that happened here," said Susan McLain, spokeswoman for the Daytona Beach Area Convention & Visitors Bureau. "It's part of our history."

The hard-packed sand made the beaches ideal for racing. For years, auto manufacturers used area beaches to test new models at top speeds. An oval race track was built on the beach in 1936, and motorcycles began racing the next year. Cars continued to race on the beach until 1958, when the Daytona International Speedway was built.

City officials believe a car-free beach will alleviate fears of young children being hit by cars.

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