EDITOR’S NOTE: This article has been updated to include comments from Del Mar City Councilman Dwight Worden, Encinitas Mayor Catherine Blakespear and Solana Beach City Councilwoman Kelly Harless.
REGION – A handful of state beaches in the North County area closed as of Friday, April 3 in response to the continuing spread of COVID-19, according to a release published by the state’s Department of Parks and Recreation.
The temporary closure will apply to Cardiff, Carlsbad (including South Carlsbad), San Elijo, South Carlsbad and Torrey Pines state beaches. The release also stated that Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve and Silver Strand state beach in Coronado will be closed “until further notice.”
The release was published shortly after Oceanside announced that they will be closing their city beaches – meaning that essentially all beaches along the North County coast will be temporarily closed, whether city or state.
Most cities in the region had already closed their beaches by March 23, after two subsequent weekends of visitors flooding the sunny coastline. However, state beaches continued to remain open through the end of March – a reality that some city officials say resulted in conflicting signals for residents and visitors.
On March 30, the city of Carlsbad sent a letter to Gov. Gavin Newsom requesting the “immediate closure” of all state and county beaches in California.
“Mixed messages are creating confusion and presenting significant challenges to our ability to maintain social distancing and protect the health and safety of our residents and visitors,” the letter states.
Dwight Worden, a city councilmember in Del Mar, said having Torrey Pines beach open to the south of Del Mar was also causing certain parking issues for the city. Because the state beach’s parking lots were closed, but not the beach itself, visitors were parking “all over Del Mar” last weekend, he said.
Worden called the closure of state beaches in the area “good news.”
“We’re trying to get the beaches closed obviously because health and safety have to be the number one criteria,” he said.
On April 1, the Encinitas City Council had a discussion about whether they should open up some of their beaches again, deciding at the end of the meeting to consider the option of opening Moonlight Beach in two weeks.
But now, given the closure of state beaches, Encinitas Mayor Catherine Blakespear, said the city’s beaches will remain closed.
“There was a feeling of wanting to get out in front of this and have consistency throughout the county,” Blakespear said, in a phone call with The Coast News.
The city of Encinitas has about an even split of state and city beaches along its coastline.
Blakespear said there has been some pushback from the community, with largely a “mixed” response overall
“I understand why people feel frustrated, because the ocean is the heartbeat of our city,” she said. “…so there’s a real sense of loss.”
Beaches became a prime meeting point for many in the last couple weeks of March, as malls, restaurants and other gathering places started closing to help stymy the spread of the virus.
Solana Beach City Councilwoman Kelly Harless noticed that despite many complying with social distancing standards on city beaches pre-closure, others looked the other way.
“There were a lot of groups lying on beach towels, playing frisbee, passing things back and forth and walking in groups,” said Harless, adding that communities “do not have the luxury of noncompliance” with social distancing.
Echoing other officials in the area, Harless said she thinks the closure of state beaches is a plus.
“The closure of the state beaches and other trails is a positive thing, because we have to do it uniformly or it doesn’t do any good,” she said.
According to Adeline Yee, Information Officer for California State Parks, State Park Peace Officers will be patrolling state parks areas to educate the public on social distancing, in cooperation with allied law enforcement agencies.
The closure applies to all vehicle and pedestrian access to the beaches, in addition to the beach itself, trails, beach staircases and restrooms. All recreational activities on the closed beaches and parks is prohibited.
Steve Puterski contributed to this report.