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FMB city leaders vote to reopen beaches to all visitors; Restaurants at 25 percent capacity

Town of Fort Myers Beach leaders voted to reopen the beach to all visitors starting Saturday, but it appears they’re already open Friday.

“The order was for tomorrow,” Mayor Ray Murphy said. “And, if some of them are opened now and they’re out on the beach, so be it.”

The town’s leaders also approved opening restaurants and stores at 25% capacity starting Monday.

“I left my house at eight o’clock this morning to get out here,” David Bjork said.

Beaches, parking, parks, Bay Oaks outside area, Newton Park and restrooms will all reopen as part of the decision by the town.

“It’s been pretty rough being quarantined this whole time not being able to work, not being able to go out,” Nicolas Hurlock said. “So it’s good to get a little sun.”

Wearing masks on the beach is optional, but no groups larger than 10 people are allowed to gather in one place.

“Oh, I was ecstatic,” Vickie Manade said. “I was here at 9 a.m. this morning, so excited.”

The beaches have been open since Tuesday, but restricted only to residents, with restrictions of having to wear masks and identification. But the county opened its three beach parks on Wednesday with no restrictions on the same island. The problem is, places with different rules are right next to each other.

“My job is to fight for all Lee County residence and I think Fort Myers Beach is some of that should be open to all Lee County residents and not just a select few,” Lee County Commissioner Brian Hamman said.

Mayor Murphy saw this much differently. He says he was a minority in the vote and didn’t want to open the beaches at all. The mayor said he doesn’t believe distancing is a problem at the Lee County beaches, and said there are plenty of places people can go to.

“We’ve got a lot of beaches around Lee County,” Murphy said. “We’re not the only beach. They came out to the Sanibel Causeway; Bonita Beach down there was packed. I’m sure there were lots of people down on Bowman’s Beach down on Sanibel and so forth, so there’s plenty of room for the people that want to come out to spread out.”

Beachgoer Manade lives on Fort Myers Beach. Count her among those who wondered why the town council waited instead of immediately reopening its beaches without restrictions Wednesday when Lee County did.

“It was very frustrating,” Manade said. “It was hard to find out what was open and what wasn’t.”

“It just didn’t make a lot of sense,” Greg Bowling said. “Because why wouldn’t they open it all up at the same time.”

Murphy said he’s still worried about the public’s health. But, since Lee County beaches are now open, there should be enough room for everyone to socially distance.

“Doesn’t seem to be a problem,” Bowling said.

And maybe take a page of Bowling’s book and keep the hand sanitizer next to the sun tan lotion.

“It seems like everyone is aware of what the circumstances are around the world, and they seem to be conscious of it,” Bowling said.

Reporter:Dannielle Garcia
Nicole Lauren
Writer:Lincoln Saunders
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