Still No Sunbathing, But Sarasota Beaches Open Monday

Todays News


There won’t be a drum circle any time in the near future, but starting Monday it will be legal once again to walk the beach.

Sarasota County Commissioners said the first steps in restoring normalcy following the COVID-19 pandemic include transitioning to open beaches. All beaches in the county have been closed since March 22, when concerns about mass gatherings of spring breakers and the spread of a coronavirus inspired a shutdown of the coasts.

But a month later, Commissioners say its important residents have access to the shore.

“At a time when we’re discussing public health issues, this has to do with mental health,” said County Commissioner Nancy Detert. “People are so cooped up they not only have cabin fever, but they are almost getting used to being isolated..”

The beaches won’t be open without restrictions. For the moment only essential activity, meaning physical activity like walking, surfing and even fishing, will be allowed. But no one can lounge on the beach and social distancing will still be enforced. Commissioners made clear a tournament organizer who still wanted a volleyball event to go forward would not be allowed to do so.

And notably, the county won’t open parking lots. That generated discussion about whether it limits access only to those near the beach and sparked some concern people will park on private property. But Commissioner Al Maio said he flet it was important to have a gradual reopening, and said commissioners can revisit the parking issue in early May.

A statewide stay-at-home order remains in effect in Florida for the moment, but it doesn’t discuss beaches and parks. Gov. Ron DeSantis has left those decisions to local governments.

County Commissioner Christian Ziegler noted that Sarasota County never has completely closed its parks in the pandemic, and now will allow the same limited activity on the beaches as already occurs on the Legacy Trail, Nathan Benderson Park and other public facilities.

The decision on Wednesday sparked some backlash, with Sarasota County trending on Twitter statewide. “I live in the state of Floridaman,” said resident Jan Moss. “I am certain they are about to do something deadly.”

County Administrator Jonathan Martin stressed if municipal leaders do not want beaches in cities open, the county will honor that. Lido Beach in the City of Sarasota will remain closed, and Venice will impose more restrictions than other parts of the county, including limiting boat ramp access.


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