SARASOTA –– From all reports, it was an uneventful day as beaches in Sarasota and Charlotte counties reopened to the public after a month of being closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“What we’re seeing is people out exercising and adhering to guidelines and social distancing,” Cindy Turner, beaches manager for Sarasota County, said Monday.
No crowds congregated on Sarasota County’s beaches as county commissioners ordered that parking lots remain closed from fears that people would do exactly that. Instead, they allowed the beaches to open for activities such as jogging, swimming, or walking.
Turner reminded people that no lounging, coolers, umbrellas or chairs were allowed. Lifeguards resumed their posts to offer assistance if needed, or to remind people of the guidelines, or answer questions.
That wasn’t true to the south, where at Englewood Beach hundreds congregated with their beach chairs and umbrellas for the first time in a month to enjoy the perfect beach weather.
Unlike Sarasota County, Charlotte County commissioners did not place any restrictions on beach goers and opened the parking lots at the county’s two public beaches.
One beach in Englewood did, notably remained closed. Stump Pass State Park Beach remained closed as Gov. Ron DeSantis has not yet reopened state beaches to the public.
In an email to the Sarasota Journal, David Graham reported that the sheriff’s office was out in force to ensure people were following the rules. In the congested Siesta Key area, with the parking lot closed many people did park illegally on local roads and deputies did write citations, Graham reported.
“I think everybody has a lot of stress on them right now, they need some opportunities to get rid of some anxiety and some depression,” Sheriff Ton Knight said during an interview with FOX 13 News.
Sarasota County commissioners plan to revisit the parking lot closures along with other amenities and re-entry plans at their meeting next week county spokeswoman Brianne Grant said Tuesday.