Residents, Commissioners Want The Beaches Closed

Daytona commissioner, Sheriff and State Representative candidate call for beaches to remain open

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Daytona Beach, FL - After multiple counties – including Flagler – close their beaches, some residents and city commissioners call on Volusia County leaders to follow suit.

Flagler's order to close the beaches, parks and the pier went into effect 6 a.m. Monday (March 23rd). But, Volusia still has yet to make the same kind of call.

While Volusia hasn't closed beaches yet, county leaders have closed some county-run beach parking lots and banned beach driving altogether. Beaches remain open and safeguards are in place that tells beachgoers to limit gatherings to 10 and keep at least six feet between you and another party on the beach.

That could all change, according to Volusia Emergency Management Director Jim Judge. But that might not change how some people think it would.

Yesterday (March 24th), Judge was present at Volusia's live update regarding the county's fight on coronavirus. While speaking, Judge stated that if beachgoers are still observed in large gatherings, the county is going to change the rules.

"Visible observations of crowds or high volumes of people will result in reduced parking, and, if needed, closure of those beachside lots," said Judge.

Would that be effective? Some residents, and city commissioners, don't think so.

Last night, Daytona Beach City Commissioners met during a special meeting, and all but one commissioner agreed that the time has come for Volusia County to close the beaches and help "flatten the curve."

Commissioner Rob Gilliland was the lone dissenting vote for closing the beaches, citing that residents could still visit oceanfront pool-decks. In turn, he's not certain that closing the beaches will act as an effective deterrent for residents and beachgoers.

At that same meeting, Mayor Derrick Henry stated that he's been in contact with other mayors around the county, and only two other mayors are on board with closing the beaches. He said he will be a part of another conference call with the other mayors around 9:30 tomorrow morning (March 26th).

The Reader's Opinion

So where do readers stand on closing the beaches?

Yesterday, News Daytona Beach launched a poll on Facebook, regarding Jim Judge's statement on either closing/reducing available parking or closing the beaches.

In just under 24 hours, almost 1,000 people voted in the poll, with over 60% saying that Volusia County needs to hurry up and close the beaches. And even though the majority voted to close the beaches, there are plenty of those who outspoken against the option.

Even Volusia County Sheriff Mike Chitwood thinks the current safeguards in place are working.

"I think at this point in time, as long as the CDC and DOH (regulations) are followed, we are good," said Sheriff Chitwood to News Daytona Beach via text. "Keeping cars off the beach coupled with limited parking spots helped last week."

However, Chitwood's opinion differs from others when it comes to keeping the beaches open. Some readers who voted in the poll stated that they believe the beach should be open to locals only. 

Joe Hannoush, a libertarian running for state representative (District 25), echoes a similar opinion, except he thinks the parking lots should be reopened too.  News Daytona Beach reached out to Hannoush to expand on his opinion. According to Hannoush, one of the big reasons it should all remain open is mental health, which he considers an often overlooked problem.

"Some people do see it as medicinal and therapeutic," said Hannoush. "Even if you don't go there, but know you have the ability to go there, it's a good thing."

Hannoush also mentioned that despite the limited number of open parking lots, you're still allowing the same number of people to visit the beach.  And, since they have a limited number of accessible places, social distancing could prove to be a challenge.

"That makes the acceptable areas even smaller, which is the opposite of what we're trying to do."

All in all, the beaches remain open and only time will tell whether Volusia leaders either close the beaches out of choice or obligation.

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