Clearing Crowds: Cities across Southwest Florida close beaches, enact restrictions
In an effort to mitigate the spread of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) and alignment with CDC guidance and Governor DeSantis’s Executive Order 20-68, the City of Naples will be closing all public beaches within city limits beginning today through Monday, March 30th.
The Pier will be closed at 3:30 p.m. Wednesday; all other beach accesses, beach restroom facilities, parking areas, Lowdermilk Park, and walkways will be closed at 5:00 p.m. Wednesday.
The City of Naples is making its decisions based on guidance from the Florida Department of Health (FDOH) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The closures could be extended as the City responds to the public health crisis and direction from the FDOH and CDC.
To stay up-to-date on information and guidance for COVID-19, visit the Florida Department of Health website (www.floridahealth.gov) or contact the Collier County Health Department at (239) 252-8200. You can also reach the FDOH Call Center for COVID-19 at (866) 779-6121, Monday through Friday, 8 a.m.-midnight.
For City of Naples residents, Emergency Management has activated a COVID-19 hotline (239) 213-4902 that will be available Monday through Friday, 8:00 a.m. – 5:00 pm.
Charlotte County beaches remain open but the county urges the governor’s guidance of small groups and keeping a 6-foot distance from other beachgoers.
**UPDATE** As of sunset Thursday, Collier county will close all beaches.
In an effort to limit the spread of COVID-19, Collier County Government announced Wednesday that effective sunset Wednesday (March 18), Collier County beach parking facilities will be closed to the public until further notice. In addition, Collier Area Transit is discontinuing operation of the Beach Bus route 29 until further notice.
These actions are in keeping with CDC COVID-19 guidelines and the Governor’s Executive Order to limit large gatherings and encourage social distancing.
All Collier County beach access points, outside the City of Naples, will remain open to the public at this time.
“I just can’t believe that they’re closing the beaches because I’m here on vacation,” said Darleen Wilkins.
Many families say they understand, but that doesn’t make it any less of a disappointment.
“It’s really a bummer, Wilkins said, “and this is just my happy place.”
Some asked, why not just social distance on the beach? But clearly, things can get close.
But still, the beaches will close until at least March 30, which is too long for some families on vacation, now on the hunt for somewhere else to go.
County-owned beaches and the county-owned Fort Myers Beach Pier will close until further notice effective at 6 p.m. Thursday, March 19, in an effort to slow the spread of COVID-19. This includes beach parking lots, restrooms and county-owned beach access points.
The county sites include:
- Bonita Beach Park
- Bowditch Point Park
- Bowman’s Beach Park
- Causeway Islands
- Crescent Beach Family Park
- Little Hickory Island Beach Park
- Lynn Hall Memorial Beach Park
- Matanzas Pass Preserve
- San Carlos/Bunche Beach Preserve
- Turner Beach Park
- Alison Hagerup Beach Park
- Andy Rosse Lane paddlecraft launch
- Boca Grande Beach Accesses
- Bonita Beach Accesses
- Dog Beach Park
- Estero Islands Beach Access
- Matanzas Bridge Fishing Pier
County Manager Roger Desjarlais announced the closure using Centers For Disease Control guidance and at a time when many college-age students are on spring break or are in the area while taking online classes.
“While young people may not be as vulnerable to the symptoms of COVID-19 as older adults, they can be asymptomatic and spread the virus to others, including older adults and their own family members,” he said.
The county will coordinate enforcement with the appropriate enforcement agencies.
The county is also suspending LeeTran beach trolley and tram service effective 6 p.m. Thursday.
The City of Sanibel has also closed all public parking at beaches to curb the spread of the virus.
FORT MYERS BEACH
The Town of Fort Myers Beach is closing all public parking, public beach access points, and commercial activity starting at 6 p.m. on Thursday. The closure will last until at least April 21.
While beaches will be closed, people are still allowed to walk on the beach, but setting up chairs, lying down or being around others in large groups are not permitted.
“We needed to make the best decision we possibly could to protect as many people as we possibly can,” said Anita Cereceda with the Town of Fort Myers Beach.
Employees say they’re nervous about their jobs and incomes, something beachgoers understand.
“It’s hard for this area because tourism is at its height right now. It’s like a bad time for this area. I know that, but it’s a protective measure,” said Laurie Sulzbach of Cape Coral.
While the new rule takes effect Thursday, the Mayor says the council will continue discussing possible changes, like whether FMB should completely shut down to all people.
One thing the mayor wanted to emphasize is that this decision is based on hope.
The council hopes by doing this they will help stop the spread of the virus and protect the residents and tourists in the area.
GOVERNOR’S STATE-WIDE GUIDANCE
The Governor is directing parties accessing public beaches in the state of Florida to follow the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidance by limiting their gatherings to no more than 10 people. Restaurants should limit dine-in capacity to 50%.