West Coast
Image: San Diego (Dennis Romero/NBC News)

CA - In California, social distancing clashes with beach access rights

Not far from where protesters gathered recently to call for an end to stay-at-home orders, Megan Haber toweled off after a Saturday morning dip in brisk, 62-degree water.

"It hurts a lot," she said of last month's shoreline closure. "The beach is a part of our lives."

San Diego city beaches reopened last Monday and, even with the boardwalk closed and sand off limits for congregating and sunbathing, people flocked to the tide line in Pacific Beach to enjoy the first weekend since March that they could access the shoreline.

Mythologized by Gidget movies and a magnet for multitudes who have crossed borders and state lines to reach it, the beach is central to what it means to be a Californian. Anger over closed beaches is not just about liberty but about equity.

"In California, by definition, the beach is a birthright," said Sean Anderson, an ecologist at California State University Channel Islands. "It's how we define ourselves."

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