FLAGLER COUNTY, Fla. – Flagler County on Tuesday issued an emergency order to allow its beaches to reopen, starting Wednesday, on a limited, trial basis amid the coronavirus pandemic.
As with the reopening of some parks with trails, the duration of the temporary reopening of all 18 miles of Flagler County’s beaches will be based on public compliance.
“Our residents have been very compliant with the trails at our parks, and that makes us very confident that this limited beach opening will be successful,” said County Administrator Jerry Cameron. “The degree to which we can expand the hours is dependent on how the public responds to this initial reopening.”
The limited beach reopening in Flagler County is based on adherence to social distancing measures and access for physical and mental health activities only – walking, biking, surfing and fishing – not congregating. Those fishing will be allowed to carry a small cooler or container for bait and tackle use.
“It was inevitable that we open up the Flagler beaches to our community but only with a public health focus and reflective of a joint decision by city, county, health department and law enforcement leaders,” said Florida Department of Health in Flagler County Administrator Bob Snyder. “In my opinion, it is OK to change strategies and response to this unprecedented public health crisis, as long as health and safety of our residents are priority.”
The city of Flagler Beach will reopen its 6-mile stretch of the beach from 7 a.m. to 10 a.m., seven days a week for physical activity – including walking, running, surging, swimming and fishing. Access to the city’s beach will be allowed from 3rd Street North to the northern city limits and from 9th Street South to the southern city limits. The dune walkovers on the boardwalk will remain closed. Fishing on the beach and dog walking will only be permitted north of 10th Street North and south of 10th Street South.
From the moment the sun came upWednesday, people like Jody Marsh and her dog, Lily, were quick to hit the sand.
“We’ve been walking every morning to the top of the walkways, and it’s kind of like, it’s so close, yet so far," Marsh said. “Just to be out enjoying the fresh air and everything is nice. And nice to see other people getting out too. It’s been kind of barren. We walk in the evening and no one’s around. It’s kind of eerie.”
While certain access points were still blocked off, Flagler residents were able to visit the beach for activity and people took advantage of that precious three-hour window.
“It’s beautiful! It’s why we moved down here,” said Vita Thompson. “I just want this whole thing, just like everyone else, to be over. Get back to what is going to be our next normal, and for everyone to stay safe, strong, and healthy.”
The unincorporated areas, including Beverly Beach and Marineland, will be open from 7 a.m. to 10 a.m. and from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.
Flagler County’s beachfront parks and their parking lots will remain closed for the time being.
“As with the reopening of some of our parks with trails, we will gauge the public’s compliance with the CDC guidance for social distancing,” said Emergency Management Director Jonathan Lord. “As our community, state and country go through the strategic reopening process, the number of cases of COVID-19 will continue to increase.”
Lord continued: “As we expand our daily routines, we must continue to protect ourselves and others through the ongoing use of cloth face coverings and social distancing."
The limited reopening of Flagler County beaches comes after Duval County beaches reopened from 6 a.m. to 11 a.m. and from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. for essential activities, including recreational activities consistent with social distancing guidelines. The St. Johns County Board of County Commissioners also made the decision to reopen its beaches from 6 a.m. to noon, seven days a week for limited activities. Nassau County beaches were closed March 22, but commissioners decided Wednesday on a limited reopening of the beaches.
At a news conference Wednesday morning, county leaders said they’re also going to focus on reopening businesses when it is safe to do so. They said mom and pop businesses, in many ways, are the backbone of Flagler County’s economy.
All Flagler County residents and businesses must abide by executive and emergency orders, and follow Florida Department of Health and Centers of Disease Control and Prevention guidance, including:
- Staying home except when engaged in essential services or activities.
- Wearing cloth face coverings when out in public.
- Practicing aggressive social distancing at all times – people should keep a minimum of 6 feet of space between one another and keep groups to less than 10, which includes while shopping and waiting in the checkout line.
- Frequent hand washing for at least 20 seconds, or use an alcohol-based (at least 60% alcohol) hand sanitizer when soap and water are not available.
- Avoiding close contact with people who are, or may be, sick.
In addition,, those who are sick and/or told to self-isolate are to: remain at home unless seeking medical care, cover coughs and sneezes, wear a facemask around others and disinfect touched surfaces daily.
COVID-19 health-related questions or concerns should be directed to a regular health care provider or the state Department of Health hotline at 866-779-6121.
COVID-19 business concerns should be directed to the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation at 866-532-1440.
All other COVID-19 government services questions or concerns may be directed to a specific municipality or the Emergency Operations Center at 386-313-4200.
Check for current information on Flagler County’s website www.flaglercounty.org, and follow “Flagler County Government” or “Flagler County Emergency Management” on social media. The county’s social media team will provide updates through these official accounts: