By Shawn Raymundo
San Clemente residents wasted no time heading back to the beaches and coastal trails to get in some surfing and exercise this past weekend, as the city loosened its closures to allow for active use only, meaning no lounging or loitering.
After a roughly two-week moratorium imposed at San Clemente beaches to prevent overcrowding and to slow the spread of the coronavirus, the city lifted the closure on Saturday, April 25, with the caveat that visitors would only be allowed to run, jog, swim, surf and kayak, among other activities.
The opening of the beaches for active use coincided with a heat wave that rolled into Southern California, enticing residents to cool off while also offering a brief reprieve from isolation amid the state’s stay-at-home order.
Assistant City Manager Erik Sund said city officials were cautiously optimistic going into the weekend, noting that the heat wave was likely to invite large crowds to the coastal cities where beaches were open. Newport Beach, in particular, saw huge crowds—roughly 40,000 on Friday and Saturday, city officials there have reportedly estimated.
“I think from the city of San Clemente’s standpoint, we weren’t as congested as Newport Beach and Huntington Beach, probably because the beach spaces there are larger compared to here,” he said, adding: “And with regards to the parking restrictions that San Clemente put into place, it was a little more difficult to get down there to the beach access.”
To continue encouraging social distancing and prevent overcrowding, the city is keeping parking lots to the beaches closed, as well as the San Clemente Pier. The limited parking availability, the city has stated, will ideally deter non-San Clemente residents from flocking to the city’s beaches.
With the beaches now reopened, the goal of the city, Sund said, is to communicate to the community the need for continued social distancing and that bringing coolers, chairs and other items to lounge on the beach are not allowed.
“In the coming week, the coming weekend, we know we need to further educate and communicate, to let the public know that we want them to enjoy this amenity, but we want them to enjoy it safely so that the threat of COVID-19 doesn’t get out of control,” he said.
While the current active-use restriction is in place, loitering and gatherings of 10 or more people will not be allowed at the beaches, nor will picnics. That also includes settling in place, so no setting up chairs, beach towels and blankets to relax. The volleyball courts, picnic pavilions and the fire rings for barbecues and bonfires will also stay closed.
Individuals found violating the city’s directive are subject to citations from the Orange County Sheriff’s Department, Marine Safety, Code Enforcement, and Park Rangers, all of whom will continue to patrol and monitor the beach and trail, according to the city.
Sund said that about six individuals were issued citations over the weekend for not complying with the active-use restrictions.
Shawn Raymundo is the city editor for the San Clemente Times. He graduated from Arizona State University with a bachelor’s degree in Global Studies. Before joining Picket Fence Media, he worked as the government accountability reporter for the Pacific Daily News in the U.S. territory of Guam. Follow him on Twitter @ShawnzyTsunami and follow San Clemente Times @SCTimesNews.