By Shawn Raymundo
A recent surge in visitation to San Clemente’s beaches and beach trails, as well as to San Onofre State Beach has prompted local and state officials to step up their efforts to curb the spread of coronavirus by announcing a set of beach closures on Tuesday, April 7.
The city announced late Tuesday night that effective Wednesday, April 8, all of San Clemente’s beaches, as well as beach coastal trails, will be closed to the public indefinitely as part of a move to address “overcrowding of the beachfront.”
“Although many of our citizens are self-regulating and practicing social distancing, the increased number of people gathering on San Clemente beaches has created more opportunities for community spread of the virus,” the city said in a press release. “Closing these areas is prudent to reduce the potential spread of the virus and protect the public.”
According to the city, noncompliance with the closure orders could result in citations being issued as the Orange County Sheriff’s Department, Marine Safety, Code Enforcement and Park Rangers will increase their monitoring of the areas.
The city’s announcement came on the heels of a similar notice by the California Department of Parks and Recreation to close off access to San Onofre State Beach, including the popular surfing destination Trestles, effective at sunset on Tuesday. No indication was given as to when it might reopen.
Just like the city of San Clemente, the state parks agency also attributed the closure of San Onofre to an increase in visitation from beachgoers, some of whom traveled as far as Ventura County. The department stated that traveling of such kind “is highly discouraged during the COVID-19 pandemic.”
“The department was forced to take further temporary safety measures by completely closing down the beach and all recreational facilities to everyone including locals, pedestrians, bicyclists, and boat traffic until further notice,” the department said in a press release. “Coastal and inland portions of the park are also closed, including parking lots, and effective Tuesday night, street parking on Christianitos Road and El Camino Real.”
The closure of the beaches signals an escalation of measures after the city, county and state parks agency took recent steps to discourage would-be beachgoers by closing the parking lots to several beaches along the coast.
“But that did not deter many surfers from walking or biking several miles to access the various surf breaks found at San Onofre,” the department said, before admonishing surfers who were “looking for that perfect wave” and “ended up congregating too closely for safe, physical distancing.”
In anticipation of the order to close the beaches, the city, late last month, posted signage and prepared fencing to restrict the beach access.
Interim City Manager Robert Dunek told councilors at their April 7 meeting that this was a step the city had not long considered nor wanted to do, but based on the level of visitors, he said “staff collectively thought it’s come time to take this action.”
While Dunek has been granted the authority by the council to initiate such actions, he said he will place a resolution in front of the council to confirm the closures at the next meeting on April 21.
More information on the closure of San Onofre can be found at the parks.ca.gov/flattenthecurve, while additional info on city’s beach closures can be be found at sanclemente.org/coronavirus.
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.