JACKSONVILLE BEACH, Fla. – The fight over sand, sea, and surf continues in Northeast Florida and Southeast Georgia. Multiple organized efforts have advocated for the reopening of beaches throughout Florida since closures began due to the coronavirus outbreak.
So far, none have succeeded.
- A petition circulating in St. Johns County to reopen county beaches for surfers and recreation on limited hours, has so far gone unacknowledged by St. Johns County Commissioner Hunter Conrad.
- Despite protests by multiple residents, Flagler County decided Monday night it will not reopen the beach for exercise purposes during the coronavirus pandemic.
- In Volusia County, Councilperson Deb Denys made a Facebook post that demanded beaches reopen.
Those feeling hopeful for a reversal of the closings or a partial opening of not only Jacksonville Beach-- but also Neptune Beach, and Atlantic Beach-- found out Monday night, they will not get their desired result either.
Jax Beach Mayor Charlie Latham said during a city council meeting, 100% closure of the beach is necessary for public safety and that the mayors of Atlantic and Neptune Beach agree.
“Every decision we’ve made so far has aligned with the governor and the President. Those decisions have been agreed upon unanimously by myself, Mayor Curry, Brown and Glasser. We’re going to continue to keep the beach closed until the pandemic has passed, or until there is clear scientific evidence that it is safe for our citizens to go back,” Latham said.
In Nassau County, local government is at least beginning talks about reopening Amelia Island and Fernandina Beach, according to a report by the Fernandina Beach News-Leader. Admittedly, the meeting was all talk and no action.
Leaders said the conversation wasn’t about opening beaches any time soon, but on how to do it, once it’s safe for the public again.
In Georgia, it’s a different story. Advocates there are pushing for beaches to be closed, again.
Georgia beaches had been closed according to local government mandates until Georgia Governor Brian Kemp signed an executive order taking that power away from county leaders.
In Glynn County, Georgia, the home to St. Simons Beaches, the pushback is intensifying.
The Chairman for the Glynn County Board of Commissioner, Michael Browning, wrote a letter to Georgia Governor Brian Kemp asking him to reconsider his previous decision to prevent county leaders from enforcing their ordinances concerning COVID-19.
In his letter, Browning specifically mentions Kemp’s decision to reopen the state’s beaches.
“...combined with the Executive Order’s suspension of Glynn County’s ability to address short-term rental matters, encourages travel into Glynn County from other areas and increases the likelihood that COVID-19 will spread in our community at a greater rate,” he said.
Health and medical officials have deemed it necessary to prevent gatherings of large groups of people to stem the spread of deadly COVID-19.
The Centers for Disease control says the virus is thought to spread mainly from person-to-person. It’s thought that keeping your distance from other people (about 6 feet) is the best way to prevent the spread.