YULEE, Fla. – Many people are thrilled about Duval County beaches reopening on a limited basis, but don’t count Nassau County officials among them.
“Knee-jerk reaction,” “unexpected” and “unfortunate” were a few of the terms lobbed as county commissioners discussed the decision when they met Friday morning.
Duval County’s beaches opened for exercise Friday and St. Johns County’s will reopen in the same capacity on Saturday. Unlike their neighbors, Nassau County officials have no plans to reopen the county’s beaches at this time.
“It was no advanced notice," Nassau County Manager Mike Mullin said. “It’s unfortunate. I’m not criticizing anybody, but I think the approach we’d all hoped for was a regional approach.”
Mullin said Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry did not give a heads up to county officials, who expected Northeast Florida’s leaders to communicate about major decisions.
“I wish Duval would’ve kind of done the same thing with us, instead of a knee-jerk reaction,” Commissioner Justin Taylor said of Mayor Curry’s decision.
Nassau County’s beaches remain closed off with signs in place to deter foot traffic.
The chief concern for commissioners appears to be the lack of resources available to enforce the kind of limited hours and activities Jacksonville’s beaches are allowing.
Commissioners said there are public safety questions that need to be answered before they’ll entertain the thought of reopening Nassau County’s beaches.
“If we open it up for swimming and surfing, I’m not going to be in favor of that if we can’t put our beach guards back on the beaches,” Commission Chair Danny Leeper said.
The board plans to revisit the issue of beach access next week.
“We need to work hand-in-hand and make sure we’re making the right decision and not do it just because of what Jacksonville is doing,” Leeper said.
Resident Fred Bravo and his wife, Kathy, said it’s important for the counties to work in unison. After all, they saw what happened before the region’s beaches closed.
“If they don’t work together, we’re just going to experience what we experienced last time, which was one closes (and) everyone migrates to the other beach,” Bravo said.
Kathy Bravo said Nassau County paid the price when Jacksonville’s beaches closed abruptly.
“It was bedlam,” she said. “I mean, we live right here at the beach and we were actually on the beach that day and the cars were crazy. The amount of people on the beach we had never seen.”