Longboat Key closed its public boat ramp on Linley Street to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
The boat ramp officially closed at 6 a.m. Thursday.
“That will help ensure that we aren’t impacted by boaters from the greater Manatee County area and beyond from using the town’s boat ramp,” Longboat Key Town Manager Tom Harmer wrote in an email to commissioners. “The county’s actions are partly intended to address the large gatherings of the boating community that are occurring in Manatee County, including Greer Island and the sandbar near Jewfish Key.”
Harmer expressed his concern that people are not practicing appropriate social distancing at Jewfish Key and Greer Island, which is also known as Beer Can Island. The town has since closed public access to Greer Island.
A single boat ramp on Coquina Beach is accessible for commercial fishermen, the town said.
Manatee County leaders announced the closure of all county- and city-owned boat ramps effective as of 6 a.m. Thursday. Only commercial operations with a U.S. Coast Guard Six-Pack Captain’s License and a commercial fishing license can use the ramps. Sarasota shut down its 10th Street boat ramp, effective 6 a.m. Sunday, along with the City Island boat ramp and the park at Bird Key.
“This was related to a number of complaints received this past weekend and the town’s request to help address the large gatherings that were occurring, especially after the public beach access points were closed,” Harmer said.
On Tuesday, the town of Longboat Key announced its offices are closed to the public. Residents can contact town staff by calling (941) 316-1999, sending an email or by scheduling an appointment.
The town is planning to hold several of its public meetings remotely for the foreseeable future.
Harmer said the town's closures go along with guidelines set forth by government leaders at the state and federal levels, which includes the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
"How do we take actions somewhat in a collaborative effort? Because if one area takes an action and the other area doesn't... We saw that even with the two counties where Manatee County's beach closure happened before Sarasota County."
With Manatee County beaches closing on March 20 and Sarasota County beaches closing the next day, Harmer said the town saw people moving between the counties.
Even though Longboat Key is split between Sarasota and Manatee counties, Harmer said the town falls under the guidance of Sarasota County in a declaration of an emergency.
"So the best thing I think we should do and try to do is to coordinate those efforts so they have the impact," Harmer said. "Manatee County has shut down boat ramps effective this morning and we joined with them in that effort, partly because we believe that once they shut down their boat ramps, at Coquina Beach and other areas around or near Longboat Key, then we only have one boat ramp that's likely to be the active boat ramp for us, and that's not what we're trying to do."
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