St. Johns County on Friday reopened its beaches.
The shoreline will be accessible seven days a week, from 6 AM to noon, for walking, running, surfing, biking, fishing, swimming, and other forms of exercise.
The move comes after community outcry, heard as recently as this week’s meeting of the St. Johns County Commission, to reopen beaches for surfing and other purposes.
County officials defended the move Friday.
“Walk to exercise not to socialize,” said Dawn C. Allicock, M.D., MPH, Director and Health Officer of Florida Department of Health in St. Johns County.
“As long as individuals adhere to the CDC guidelines of social distancing, getting exercise and fresh air can be beneficial for our citizens’ physical and mental health,” Allicock urged.
“From day one, every decision we have made has been methodical and deliberate without knee jerk actions or reactions, and this decision is no different. Our residents have shown extreme grace, measure, and personal responsibility throughout this pandemic, and our trend is beginning to flat line and has been doing so for nearly two weeks.” said Hunter S. Conrad, St. Johns County Administrator.
“We also know this is not over and we are urging all who use the beach to follow the restrictions in place. Our hope is that this becomes a great mental health release for so many and becomes the first step of many in the coming weeks and months in our return to normal life,” Conrad added.
The move comes a day after Duval County reopened its beaches, effective Friday evening.
Jacksonville beaches will be accessible between 6-11 A.M. and 5-8 P.M.
Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry has already taken to Twitter to plead with locals to follow social-distancing guidelines on the beach.
“Don’t ruin this for everyone,” Curry warned.
“We remain under a State and local safer at home order. Limited access to beaches/ parks is for recreational activities only. No chairs, coolers, sitting/groups congregating. Public safety workers will break up groups. Use these spaces responsibly,” Curry warned.
On Thursday, Curry announced his decision to reopen beaches, with conditions applying similar to the St. Johns guidelines.
Users must be “participating in recreational activities consistent with social distancing guidelines such as walking, biking, hiking, fishing, running, swimming, taking care of pets and surfing.”