Jeff Gritchen/Orange County Register/SCNG

FL - Busy beaches: A look back a year after the coast was closed

Memorial Day weekend not only kicks off the “unofficial start of summer,” but it also marks the anniversary of a memorable period last year when the early days of the coronavirus pandemic had us questioning how safe the beaches were after they were forced to shut down, in some cases for more than a month.

Even when they did start reopen as summer heated up, rules were strict. Remember “active use” requirements that forbid laying down on a towel to sunbathe or read a book?

The loss of beach access was a hot topic in Southern California. Many argued the vast expanse was the safest place to be, an outdoor escape from the indoor confines of shutdown orders. Others cringed and complained at the sight of crowded coastlines, worried beaches could be super-spreader sites as the pandemic raged on.

There was a lot of debate whether shutting down beaches was the right thing to do, with very vocal people on both sides of the line drawn in the sand.

But one lesson learned from the past year is apparent: Our beaches are beloved.

“It goes to show that the recreational and outdoor environment is a key part of the mental health of humanity,” said State Parks Superintendent Kevin Pearsall, who oversees Bolsa Chica State Beach and Huntington State Beach. “When we closed the beach is when the community really panicked and got upset. When we reopened, it was like a breath of fresh air.”

But the year following the coastal shutdowns still shows a wave of impacts from the coronavirus pandemic – and valuable lessons learned along the way.

During a pandemic, life’s a beach

Once the tidal gates to local beaches opened, people wasted no time flocking to the coast – and they never stopped showing up.

Read more.