SARASOTA, Fla. (WFLA) – The Sarasota County Commission voted on Wednesday to reopen most county’s beaches with some restrictions.
Commissioner Nancy Detert made the motion at the meeting Wednesday, and the vote passed unanimously.
Starting Monday, April 27, the beaches will be available for limited use or essential activities such as walking, running, fishing, surfing and swimming. Visitors will not be allowed to congregate and must practice social distancing. Umbrellas, towels, chairs, coolers, and alcohol are also not allowed.
Public parking will not be available. Concession stands and playgrounds will also be closed. Commissioners say they’re not trying to discriminate when it comes to who can access the beach, but they’re trying to avoid an influx of visitors. They plan to slowly phase in a plan to reopen public parking spaces in the coming weeks.
“We’ve been in quarantine for a long time and I think it’s time to take steps to open back our community and open up our economy,” said Commissioner Christian Zeigler, who added the issue to the agenda
Zeigler took to Facebook last week, asking residents how they feel about reopening beaches. Nearly 1,000 people commented, sharing their thoughts and opinion. Some say they are all for opening the beaches, some want them open with certain limits and others say they want them to remain closed.
“I don’t think everything will be the exact same as it was before, but people need to get back to work, people need to get back to running their business, people need to get back to being involved in the community, I think this is just one of those steps,” he said.
Lido Beach will remain closed while City of Sarasota officials continue to monitor local COVID-19 testing results
“Local city decisions will be guided by science, data and credible public health advice. Lessening restrictions too early, especially with limited local testing, could backfire,” City Manager Tom Barwin said. “National medical experts have advised that lifting restrictions on social gatherings should only be considered following two weeks of no increases, and preferably declines, in new COVID-19 cases. We are not experiencing that in the north end of the county. The number of positive cases located within five zip codes in the city limits continues to rise. Following consultation with Mayor Jen Ahearn-Koch and local public health professionals and given the high concentration of positive results and older demographics on our barrier islands, we will continue to evaluate the situation on a daily basis before lessening restrictions at Lido Beach to ensure public health and safety.”
The city will review the the action taken by the Sarasota County Commission to allow limited access to other county beaches starting next week.
Commissioners said they had the option to adjust the closures if necessary in nine days.