Saturday, March 21, 2020

EDITORIAL | Using prudence on beach closures. (SAR)

I agree (see below) with the St. Augustine Record editorial.

No more cars allowed on beaches, currently, so the possibility of overcrowding is nil.

We are not an urban area like Jacksonville and South Florida, and there is no current justification for closing beaches.

People will walk to beaches from cars (unless someone asks for an ADA reasonable accommodation).

From St. Augustine Record:

EDITORIAL | Using prudence on beach closures
Posted at 3:25 PM
St. Augustine Record

Area governments are so far hitting the right balance in discouraging people from congregating on the beaches while stopping short of closing off access altogether.

Volusia County announced Thursday that it would close beach driving ramps in New Smyrna Beach on Friday because of growing beach crowds. This has been a problem especially in the Flagler Avenue area. This weekend, the rest of the county beaches are closed to driving. These are prudent countermeasures.

Some will object that lack of parking will keep people off the beach. Well, that’s the idea. If a parking lot is full, then you shouldn’t go to that part of the beach. There are too many people there ahead of you.

The county also is advising people who do go to beaches to practice social distancing, stay six feet apart, and limit groups to 10 people or less.

Flagler County, likewise, gives this advice to beachgoers but is not closing the beaches. St. Johns County officials have banned parking on the beach but for now are also opting to keep beaches open.

Some counties have closed their beaches. As of Friday at least 15 Florida counties have closed their beaches or their beach parking areas, according to Visit Florida.

Most of these areas are urban beaches where the beach geography and available parking tend to push people together. Miami Beach and beaches around Fort Lauderdale, in particular, have attracted unsafe concentrations of crowds arriving for spring break and other events. But Volusia County, with its 47 miles of beach, allows people to spread out at safe distances from each other with many access points to choose from.

Flagler County has 19 miles of beach, enough that, if people avoid grouping around the pier, everyone should be able to enjoy a safe beach experience.

St. Johns County has about the same length of beach as Volusia County, so there is lots of room if beachgoers are smart enough to avoid congregating.

Not all beaches are the same, so a blanket closure of all beaches everywhere doesn’t make sense and would be difficult to enforce.

Meanwhile, officials from the governor on down also have been outspoken in rolling up the usual welcome mat for spring breakers.

“Spring break’s done,” DeSantis said.

“I want to encourage all young people who are on spring break to remain home. Daytona Beach will welcome you next year as we always have, but this year, please stay home,” said Daytona Beach Mayor Derrick Henry.

And spring breakers seem to be slowly getting the message as beachside hotels continue to be flooded with reservation cancellations. Day-trippers, likewise, need to stay put.

If the beaches are to remain safely open to Floridians who seek relief from cabin fever after days of self-isolating, beachgoers need to act more responsibly and be more careful about where they throw down their towels. Meanwhile enforcement need to step up efforts to break up the beach parties.

Most local governments are to be commended for maintaining a careful balance between preventing crowd-borne contagion and allowing some semblance of daily life to go forward. The next several days will prove if that’s possible.

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