Beaches across Miami-Dade County have been closed since mid-March. The first closures were limited to the entertainment district in South Beach and were meant to curb rowdy crowds of Spring Breakers. Later, as the fear of COVID-19 was realized, the closures were extended to other areas of the beach, and finally full closures of all beaches in the County.
Here at ThankYouSurfing, we were shocked that access was blocked to our favorite public resources, the beach, and the ocean. We were even more shocked that there was no plan for reopening. No answers about “when,” no answers about “how,” either. We sent emails, we rallied the community to respectfully ask our government leaders for some plan. (and, again!) As exercise became acceptable, we asked the government for the return of our ability to exercise in the ocean. Our requests were met with no reply, or a simple, “Not now!” Frustrated, we appealed to the Surfrider Foundation for help.
What’s Surfrider Foundation doing?
Surfrider Foundation had been publishing statements since the beginning.
- Surfing and Beach Access during the peak of COVID-19 (APRIL 07 2020)
- Looking ahead: When and how to safely open beaches and surfing? (APRIL 24 2020)
- Safe Recreation at the Beach (MAY 7 2020)
They were aimed at keeping their constituents and the public safe. Then, as things in California opened up for exercise, they advocated for everyone to follow the rules. When mishaps with reopenings and compliance occurred, they worked to ensure that the reopenings remained open. Our reality in Miami was a bit different. Here, we never had a reopening. We never had the chance to follow the rules. It’s been assumed that our government has no ability to control crowds, and therefore, beaches should remain closed.
And, what about ThankYouSurfing?
Many in our local community were not exactly happy with Surfrider Foundation’s strategy for COVID related closures. So, ThankYouSurfing decided that we could come up with some guidelines for reopenings. We based them on the experience of other municipalities, advice from on the ground enforcement workers, and knowledge of coastal experts, including Surfrider Foundation CEO, Chad Nelsen.
All the while, ThankYouSurfing communicated with Surfrider Foundation. Asking when they’d join the fight for access. Recently, our local chapter was informed that Surfrider Foundation had decided that our closures are related to a public health risk, and were not an access issue. ThankYouSurfing doesn’t disagree. It is a public health issue AND it’s an access issue. Subsequently, Surfrider Foundation’s Miami Chapter has released a statement from the leadership. We’re grateful.
Surfrider Miami & Beach Access during COVID-19
Aloha to all our members, surfers and the beach loving community at large. Hope all are doing well during this COVID-19 pandemic.Email from Surfrider Foundation, May 17, 2020
Surfrider Foundation leadership has been studying and debating beach re-opening at the local and national level for weeks. If you’ve missed these updates, please visit: https://www.surfrider.org/coastal-blog/entry/recreating-safely-at-the-beach
As our coasts and ocean begin to open for recreation, the Surfrider Foundation is urging the public to continue to honor stay-at-home orders, practice physical distancing, and avoid any crowded public spaces, including coastal parks, beaches and surfing areas.
Stay-at-home orders allow for exercise as an essential activity. Surfrider supports getting outside and recreating responsibly.
We love the beach and surfing and look forward to returning to the water in socially responsible ways. And we all know there is tremendous pent-up demand to get sand between the toes and get wet in the ocean.
We are also are keenly aware that Miami struggles during normal circumstances to provide and enforce safe use of our beaches. Recent Spring Break, Memorial Day weekend and Floatopia events are prime examples.
Over the years, these events have taken a massive toll on our beaches, leaving shorelines trashed, and forcing our Lifeguards to work under less than ideal circumstances which have created public health and safety issues for locals and visitors on Miami Beach.
The Surfrider Foundation and our Miami Chapter are staunch advocates for beach access for all, but we also understand that public health and safety are paramount. We recognize there are regional variances in terms of beach closures. However, our Miami Beaches are not ready to be opened until such time that the City of Miami Beach (CMB) AND County (MDC) can develop a comprehensive plan to do so.
Addressing the public health threat requires effective and equitable coastal access management strategies. Additionally, public cooperation and individual compliance with the rules is essential. We need to work together as a community to abide by public health guidelines, including continued physical distancing, while avoiding congregating in crowds of any kind on the beach, in the water, near the shoreline, parking lots, etc. to deter potential spread of the coronavirus.
Surfrider will continue its 35-year history of promoting beach access and coastal recreation for all. Next week, we will be providing CMB/MDC with specific recommendations as coastal recreational users as they develop a plan to safely open Miami-Dade County beaches as quickly and safely as possible. Assuming coronavirus cases have not risen, our TARGET DATE for a phased reopening of the beaches is June 1st.
Next Thursday, Surfrider Miami Chapter leadership will offer our recommendations to elected officials. Surfrider will ramp up our efforts to reopen beaches and allow access to surf spots. When the time comes, the community must show that we are also prioritizing public health and enjoying the beach responsibly. It is up to all of us as individuals to do everything we can to eliminate the risk of this virus, respect physical distancing guidelines and flatten the curve so everyone can get back to the beach safely.
We are very appreciative of all our active members and volunteer leaders who have been working diligently behind the scenes on this issue.
We hope you all stay safe and healthy, and we’re looking forward to seeing you all in the water again very soon.
Surfrider Foundation Miami