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Residents eager to enjoy the sunshine as barriers come down at Causeway Island Park

With Lee County beaches back open, people are free to go and enjoy the sand at Causeway Island Park. But there are more restrictions on Sanibel Island.

Island officials on Wednesday decided to allow restaurants and retailers to reopen with proper social distancing in place.

Vacation rentals on the island will remain closed for now.

Officials also decided not to reopen beach parking except for those who live on the island.

The surf, the sun and the sand — that’s what Hank Dunster says he’s been waiting for. “What’s better than looking at this? This is paradise!”

It’s also what Sue Bowling says her grandkids have been craving. “We wanted to bring the grandkids to the beach because they love it and we haven’t been able to go.”

Wednesday morning, the barriers at Causeway Island Park came down and, soon after, people started rolling in.

“Soon as we knew, we got ourselves packed up with stuff, beach towels,” Dunster said.

“I think you can tell from the smile on our face that we were tickled and we found out yesterday so we said oh we’re going to the beach tomorrow,” said Maria Strano of Lee County.

As they soak in the sun, it’s clear people practiced their social distancing giving each other plenty of room to spread out on the sand.

“We were cautious when we came up, checked where there weren’t any people and boats and things and thought we’d bring them into shore,” Bowling said.

“As long as everybody keeps their distance, I think you’ll be ok,” said Debbie Mundo of Fort Myers.

Across the causeway, only Bowman’s Beach, another county-owned beach, is open without restrictions.

Other beaches on Sanibel, owned by the city, still have barricades to keep non-residents away, but those enjoying beaches with full access say this is a breath of fresh air.

“Right now we’re just enjoying the sunshine,” Strano said.

A dose of sunshine that beachgoers hope is a sign things might be getting back to normal.

The timing of getting back to normal is what Sanibel leaders are continuing to discuss. Their next meeting is planned for May 5.

Reporter:Breana Ross
Writer:Briana Harvath
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