PINELLAS COUNTY (CW44 News At 10) – On Tuesday, CW44 News at 10 told you Pinellas County officials decided not to take a vote on closing beaches ahead of the holiday weekend, and other than keeping a 6 foot distance from the group next to you beachgoers can look forward to a pretty relaxed weekend on the beach as far as regulations are concerned.
“We’re going to have all of our officers out. We normally have a larger contingent during holiday weekends,” said Frank Hibbard, Mayor of Clearwater. “And what I’ve recommended to people is those people who are at risk need to stay home.”
Mayor Hibbard expects normal record crowds this year. He points to firework displays around the Tampa Bay area being cancelled but also the threat of Covid-19 restricting many activities, ultimately pushing families back toward the beaches.
“It can be a safe enjoyable weekend, we don’t have much rain in the forecast whereas Memorial Day weekend we had kind of crummy weather,” said Mayor Hibbard.
But says it wasn’t the popular decision among residents.
“And we’ve had a lot of people that do not want the beaches open. I’d call it 60/40 against having the beach open,” said Mayor Hibbard.
Question: “Ok, so why didn’t officials decide to close them?”
“So the issue is, we could close Clearwater’s beaches, but if we do that, we’re going to push all of the people that would be coming to our beach down to smaller beaches that don’t have as much capacity. So they’d be going to Honeymoon and Indian Rocks and St. Pete Beach,” said Mayor Hibbard.
Given Pinellas County officials have decided to keep the beach open, the city is implementing familiar safety measures.
“So what we’re doing is signage to encourage people to follow social distancing on the beach, we have additional sanitary stations where people can wash hands. Obviously the bars are closed but restaurants and other food establishments are in fact open,” said Hibbard.
And if you’re worried about overcrowding, pay attention to parking. One of the ways the city regulates beach population is through parking space capacity, which also matches up closely with those distancing protocols.
“Once we get to a point where we have no more public parking, that’s kind of the trigger for we also don’t have any more room on the beach,” said Mayor Hibbard. “If they use some common sense and follow all of the guidelines, I think people can have a safe, enjoyable weekend.”
We also reached out to the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office who says they will have an increased presence as they normally do during holiday weekends.