By Dale Martin
City Manager
Fernandina Beach
May 1, 2020

“Beach bathrooms will not be open (for sanitary and hygienic reasons). Reconstruction of the boardwalk at Seaside Park (Sadler Road) will restrict access to a portion of that beach area and parking lot. The City Golf Course will also re-open Monday morning with several protocols in place to enhance safety. Other City recreational facilities will remain closed for now.”

City Manager Dale Martin

The responses to the Covid-19 virus continue to be wide-ranging and diverse. If interested, it is very easy to find a medical or health professional articulating the danger of the virus and another professional shrugging it off. Many medical experts argue that it is not a black or white issue, but grey; the problem and how to respond, however, is that the black and white portions of this spectrum are not much wider than a human hair. It is an incredibly challenging and frustrating environment, driven by the goal to ensure public health, safety, and welfare.

The City Commissioners, as a body, have accepted the responsibility of ensuring the public health, safety, and welfare of the residents of Fernandina Beach. They are supposed to represent and act upon the best interests of the entire community, not individuals or limited segments. This burden is overlooked by some who direct comments to the Commissioners arguing “to do as I say because you are supposed to represent me!”

I believe that the City Commissioners have accepted this responsibility and acted in the full best interests of the community, especially during this public health crisis. An example of their community leadership has been illustrated by their review, understanding, and actions related to City beaches.

In fact, the City Commission did not limit access to the beaches- the City Commission never formally considered nor voted on closing the beaches. It was under the authority granted to me under the current State of Emergency and related state laws that I restricted access to the City beaches on March 21. It was only after extensive deliberate conversations with and the support of all five Commissioners, however, that I implemented the restrictions. As a result, no formal action by the City Commission is necessary to rescind the restrictions (although the City Commission is not precluded from formally acting on this, or any other issue, during the State of Emergency).

The Commissioners have received hundreds of messages related to the beach closures. The messages have been diverse: open the beaches, keep them closed, allow only walkers, give “my” group special privileges, keep the Georgia (New York, New Jersey, name the area outside of Nassau County) people away. Most have been polite and articulate, others have been less polite. The beach restrictions issue is not much different than dozens of issues that have previously been presented to the City Commission and articulated strongly by proponents and opponents.

Following the closure of the beaches, Commissioner Ross offered four conditions during regional meetings for consideration to lift the beach restrictions: Governor DeSantis would re-open the State Parks on Amelia Island (and their beaches), the Governor’s Executive Orders recommending senior citizens stay home and closing restaurants be lifted, and a declaration from the County Health Director that it was safe to open the beaches. Although media reports indicated continuing support for those conditions in an effort to coordinate beach re-openings (the beaches on Amelia Island fall under the jurisdiction of three entities: the State, the County, and the City), the desired coordination is somewhat fractured, but the beaches under County and City jurisdiction will be re-opened over the course of the next few days.

County officials have announced that County beaches will open on Friday, May 1. Please review the Nassau County web site and related press releases for restrictions to be in effect when those beaches are opened.

City beaches will re-open at 6:00 AM, Monday, May 4. Beach access will not be limited to specific hours, nor will beach activities be restricted. Ocean Rescue personnel will be deployed at that time. If beach visitors want to sit on the beach at 3:00 PM, much as many are doing now in several other locations throughout the City, then I believe the beach should be no different. Walk, sit, run, swim, surf, fish as you wish. All parking, with the exception of on-beach parking at Sadler Road, will be open and available.

The key issue will again be adherence to the social distancing and public gathering guidelines offered by the Centers for Disease Control. It was the failure to maintain appropriate separation and growing numbers of gatherings that led to the original beach closure. The compliance of Fernandina Beach residents with those guidelines have had an impact of limiting virus occurrence within the City. PLEASE CONTINUE TO MAINTAIN SEPARATION DURING BEACH (AND ALL OTHER) ACTIVITIES: the State and local emergency declarations remain in effect if new action is necessary. Do not gather in groups, even if family, to avoid drawing unwarranted attention.

A few final notes regarding the scheduled Monday re-opening. Beach bathrooms will not be open (for sanitary and hygienic reasons). Reconstruction of the boardwalk at Seaside Park (Sadler Road) will restrict access to a portion of that beach area and parking lot. The City Golf Course will also re-open Monday morning with several protocols in place to enhance safety. Other City recreational facilities will remain closed for now.

Thank you for your continuing cooperation. Enjoy the beach and golf course- safely.

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Harry Henning
Harry Henning
2 years ago

You got that wrong Dale. They are not reopening the beaches without bathrooms, they are reopening without private/enclosed bathrooms. The idea that they will not open is for “hygienic and sanitary reasons” belies the imagination. Beaches will become quite unhygienic and unsanitary. Come one, people, think these things through. Send in the Porta Potties!

Harry Henning,

Amelia Island

Jack Knocke
Jack Knocke
2 years ago

Dale,

One item in your beach reopening comments is astounding – you are not opening the bathrooms? Where are the children/families supposed to go to relieve themselves? How can NOT opening bathrooms support sanitary and hygiene conditions? You need to open the bathrooms and clean them regularly!

You invite people to use the beach, but don’t open the bathrooms? You made your point that YOU own this – you need to fix that immediately!

Jack

Sherry Harrell
2 years ago

Beach bathrooms will not be open (for sanitary and hygienic reasons).

It seems to me that for sanitary and hygienic reason, the bathrooms would be open!! Otherwise, people will be forced to use the dunes or go in the water, which is anything but hygienic.

Dave Lott
Dave Lott
2 years ago

Reopening the beach without having operating bathrooms at the parks so equipped is a recipe for disaster. Isn’t there a company under contract for the bathroom cleanings? Have they continued to be paid while the beaches and restrooms have been closed? If so, have them do cleaning more frequently to make up for their previous slack time. If not, pay them extra for the additional cleaning. While I understand the concerns, I have seen no evidence in the journals that the virus has been spread by surface contamination. Yes, more frequent cleaning is needed.

And another question: why are the lifeguards having to rely on supplying their own PPE or relying on the public sewing masks for them? Guess this is another one of those “grey” areas deciding between the safety of the employee versus the public at large. Tough decisions for sure, but the bathroom closure shouldn’t be one of them.

Nicholas Velvet
Nicholas Velvet
2 years ago

Wonderful read Mr. Martin. Most correct, you own this decision~~~the whole process since March. I know many others who have asked you since March when you issued the command “Thou shall not use Beaches”, what was the difference walking on The River to Sea Federal Bike Path vs. the streets of Fernandina Beach vs. the beach? We never got an answer because I guess other than” Thou Shall Obey The Proclamations”, there was none. No worries, I can walk home to use my own bathroom thank you very much. Beware of those pesky seniors in the dunes!!!!!

Now that this all encompassing decision is complete, please focus on just how with 16.2 % of folks out of work(I dare saw “official” numbers will be North of 30% within the month) and commercial properties up and down Center Street closed for the last 6 weeks if not permanently, just how will The City have anywhere near a “balanced” budget short of returning to The Well(i.e. taxpayers right rear pockets). I seem to recall that a key component of management(at least in private industry) was balancing expenses verses revenues . I look forward to hearing some specific line item elimination across the budget board perhaps next Friday in your weekly comments? I know this maybe a complex task and as I requested a few weeks back, a unencrypted word document line item copy of the budget on a zip drive I could pick up at City Hall would be most helpful to reach a target budget reduction to mirror the City of FB tax appeal losses that will be on the immediate horizon. Don’t think this is going to happen? I have a wonderful fairytale for you to read.

Naima Major
Naima Major
2 years ago

You have my sympathies. We shall all see fairly soon whether loosening restrictions have a significant effect on community health. Hopefully, even with the beaches open, visitors and residents will be mindful of others. Scrupulous hygiene never hurt anyone! The issue is that one may be infected and a – symptomatic. Frankly, everyone should be tested so at least you’d be dealing with facts not fear, and the uninfected would be able to protect themselves from a harm that could become deadly. Best of luck protecting this lovely area of the country. I hope to return someday.

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