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Longboat Key Wednesday, Mar. 25, 2020 3 months ago

Longboat officials focus on education as beaches remain closed

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Sarasota and Manatee County officials closed all public beaches to stop the spread of COVID-19.
by: Brynn Mechem Staff Writer

Residents who take their daily walks on the beach have had to find a new route. 

Last week, Sarasota County and Manatee County leaders ordered the closure of all public beaches in an effort to stop the spread of COVID-19. 

The decision came amid concerns about the local effect other Florida beach closures might have.   

"Our residents and our visitors have done what we asked, but we're worried about the gridlock and other such things that might come into play with those other beaches closing," County Administrator Jonathan Lewis said. 

Tina Adams, a spokesperson for Longboat Key’s emergency services, said that although the public beaches are closed, private beaches remain open. Several residents and vacationers can be seen walking up and down the beaches daily. 

The parking lot on Broadway Street for the beach access on the North end of the island is closed, Adams said, but if people walk to the access, they are allowed on the beach. 

The department could give a ticket to people who park in the lot. However,  the Longboat department is not giving out citations and is instead focusing on education. 

“Our first instinct is not to give out a citation because we want to educate the public,” Adams said. “We will make every intent to find the owner first, but if it becomes a problem, further action could be taken.” 

While Longboat Key's beaches were closed last weekend, large numbers of boaters anchored or beached their vessels around the north end of the island -- as frequently is the case on weekends when the weather is nice. 

Town Manager Tom Harmer said the crowds of people on the beach around Greer Island was a concern for the town.

"As Greer Island is a Manatee County park we have reached out to them for assistance,'' he said.  "They are looking at some options to limit access to the beach area and we are awaiting feedback from them on how they can assist.”

Adams said in the meantime, the Longboat Key Police's  marine unit will make rounds regularly to Greer Island and will inform boaters that the beach is closed. Manatee officials on Tuesday ordered public boat ramps closed. 

On Lido Key, which is patrolled by Sarasota Police, officers have stepped up beach patrol. 

“We’re doing more of education and encouragement than anything else,” Genevieve Judge, a spokesperson for Sarasota Police, said. “Most locals realize the beaches are closed, but you might have folks coming from out of state who have no idea.” 

Judge said the officers will approach people on the beach, inform them why they are closed and asked them to leave. 

 

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