Horseback riding won’t be allowed when Nassau County beaches reopen

As county prepares to reopen beaches, officials announce recovery information fairs to be held next week

NASSAU COUNTY, Fla. – Nassau County officials held a news conference to go over the guidelines that will be in place Friday when county beaches reopen.

County beaches will be open from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. every day for most normal activities -- such as swimming, sitting, fishing, surfing and lying out -- though beachgoers will be required to practice social distancing and to limit groups to no more than 10 people.

For now, Mullin said, horseback riding and other commercial activities will not be allowed.

“They’ll review that as we go through the month of May,” said Mullin, who added that the county is waiting for the initial influx of beachgoers to die down before letting horses back on the beaches.

When the beaches reopen, Mullin said, parking lots will be open, but there will be no driving or parking on the beach. He said the county is worried about horse trailers taking up available parking lot space.

“It could kill some of the businesses for sure,” said Stanley Potter, who owns Happy Trails Walking Horses.

Potter, who has already had to sell one of his horses, said local tour companies are struggling with no income and high expenses to maintain horses.

“You can’t support horses without somebody. You know, you’ve got all these horses and if they are not being used, if you’re not bringing any money in, then how do you feed them? It costs a lot to feed and hay every day," Potter said.

Potter added that letting beachgoers park on the sand once again would free up more parking lot space for everyone, but county leaders said they’ll regroup in the coming weeks to discuss commercial activities on the beaches.

In the meantime, Nassau County Sheriff Bill Leeper said deputies will be assigned to patrol the beaches to make sure beachgoers remain safe, as well as remind them to follow social distancing guidelines and not gather in large groups.

“We want people to enjoy themselves because it has been a while since the public has been allowed on our beaches, but we just want them to do it responsibly. Doing this will allow us to get back to normal as soon as possible, so have fun, be safe, but be smart," Leeper said.

UNCUT: Nassau County news conference addresses reopening of beaches

The Nassau County Board of Commissioners said it voted Wednesday evening to reopen its beaches on Friday morning in hopes of helping ease the rush when the city of Fernandina Beach reopens its beaches at 6 a.m. Monday for all activities.

Emergency Management Director Greg Foster said Emergency Management personnel and volunteers will be at Peter’s Point beach access at 6 a.m. Friday when county beaches reopen and will be handing out cloth masks and providing information on social distancing and CDC guidelines, as well as answers to some frequently asked questions. Foster said masks will also be handed out at information fairs next week, with a total of 1,000 masks available between the opening of the beaches and the fairs.

Foster said the fairs will allow residents to obtain information and limited services and receive help from representatives of Nassau County elected government offices.

The first fair will take place from 9 a.m. to noon Wednesday, May 6, at the Northeast Florida Fairgrounds on U.S. 1 in Callahan. The second fair will take place from 9 a.m. to noon Friday, May 8, at Yulee Middle School on Miner Road.

During the fairs, Foster said, social distancing and other Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines will be followed due to the coronavirus.

As far as Nassau County restaurants, Foster said they are being advised to follow Gov. Ron DeSantis’ plan for reopening the state, which allows restaurants to reopen Monday at 25% capacity inside with tables 6-feet apart outdoors.

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