On Tuesday, Collier County commissioners discussed shutting down the beaches again for the Fourth of July weekend.
County commissioners voted 3-2 to have the same restrictions on county beaches as they did for Memorial Day weekend.
The beaches will be open from 7 a.m. to 11 a.m. then again from 5 p.m. to dusk starting on Friday, July 3 and county or city parking stickers are required. Immediately after the vote, the commission unanimously voted to keep the restrictions in place until Miami-Dade and Broward counties open their beaches.
As for the City of Naples, they have chosen to also adopt these same rules, but for Friday through Monday. In addition, the City Pier will be closed to foot traffic and fishing, the City Dock will be closed to foot traffic but fuel sales and charter fishing will be allowed and City Landings boat ramp will be open.
Marco Island announced Tuesday afternoon they will also adopt the county restrictions for their city beaches for Friday through Sunday.
Fireworks and pets are also prohibited on Naples city property and Marco Island beaches at all times.
These decisions come after Miami-Dade said it was shutting down its beaches for the holiday, along with other east coast beaches.
Local leaders fear people may drive across the state and come here.
Commissioner Bill McDaniel shared with us prior to the vote that he was not in favor of a full closure and that he would rather use the restrictions they had last time, limiting beach hours to the morning and afternoon.
He thinks shutting them down entirely is unnecessary and will be detrimental to many businesses.
However, some say they don’t want the beaches to get overcrowded.
”The idea of coming here was not just a vacation, but also a vacation in some normal sort of way,” said Dritan Ceakj.
He and his family came to SWFL from Illinois, and not getting to enjoy the beach in the middle of a hot day by their hotel was not part of their holiday plans.
“You’re supposedly safe 5 days a week, 23 hours but you still have to go to the grocery store,” Ceakj said.
Now, the time you can spend on the sand or in the water will be limited at all county beaches.
“That’s probably better than closing the beaches 100% and that was horrible,” said Miguel Lopes from Naples.
Collier commissioners say the move is to stop the spread of COVID-19. With beaches on the east coast closed for the big Fourth of July weekend, commissioners don’t want folks invading the shoreline.
“It’s a good compromise,” said District 4 Commissioner Penny Taylor. “Our citizens can use the beaches, the parking is restricted to our citizens. If they can’t make it in the morning, then they can make it in the evening.”
Others like Juan Vera of Naples want the beaches shut down completely, remembering the last time commissioners set restrictions.
“They would come in the morning and they would wait until the beaches reopened again,” Vera said. “I’m just concerned with all the older people in this community.”
Some argued at the commissioners’ meeting that the problem isn’t on the sand.
”There’s no evidence to show that there’s any risk of getting an illness from going to the beach,” said one man at the meeting. “We deal with other things like red tide.”
But even some disappointed vacationers like Ceakj don’t want to deal with the crowds.
”Nothing to do with the virus, I just like, sort of like, a little bit more privacy and a little bit more room,” he said.
Commissioners say the county manager will lift the restrictions when Miami-Dade beaches reopen. As of now, that’s Tuesday, but it could be extended.
Lee County Manager Roger Desjarlais took exception to Taylor saying those who don’t like Collier’s beach restrictions should travel north to Lee County’s beaches.
“Yesterday, Collier County commissioners placed restrictions on beach hours for the Fourth of July holiday weekend, as is their right,” Desjarlais said. “Collier Commissioner Penny Taylor, however, in an on-camera interview, irresponsibly took it a step too far by inviting people from Florida’s East Coast to inundate Lee County beaches. For local governments, it’s challenging enough to navigate through the pandemic and keep residents’ best interests in mind without a Collier commissioner making such a parochial statement at the expense of Lee County’s residents. We encourage people who visit our beach parks this weekend to follow all CDC guidelines, hold themselves accountable and act responsibly.”