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Maintain social distance and avoid crowds to avoid Central Coast beach closures, officials say

Posted at 5:12 PM, Apr 30, 2020

Orange County residents have to say goodbye to the sand and waves for now because of Governor Gavin Newsom’s beach closure order, but what does that mean for Central Coast beaches?

Most beaches and state parks in San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara counties will stay open, and in order to keep them open, local law enforcement is urging the community to social distance and avoid crowds.

Local agencies like the Port San Luis Harbor Patrol saw the news that The California Police Chiefs Association informed police chiefs across the state that Gov. Newsom would be issuing an order to close all beaches and state parks across the state.

So they prepared for the possibility.

“The biggest issue is staffing and resources. Do we have enough manpower to really block a public beach from really allowing anybody to be on it?" said Matthew Ashton, Chief Harbor Officer of the Port San Luis Harbor Distrtict. “We had to make sure that our lifeguards and Harbor Patrol were prepared for the amount of people that we were likely to see who was going to challenge the order."

We avoided local closures and many want to keep it that way.

“In order to do that, we need to keep our beach numbers low and continue to see social distancing and a lack of large groups and gatherings on the beaches," Ashton said.

In Montana de Oro, a seascape photographer said closures would prevent him from taking pictures but he would understand if more restrictions were issued.

“If they are serious about it, I'll just hang [my camera] up for a while,” said Jack McNeal, Los Osos resident. “People, a lot of them are too dumb to look after their own health, so yeah, I think they are reasonable."

In an Instagram post, San Luis Obispo County Sheriff Ian Parkinson said he is not in favor of closures, saying he does “not plan to make criminals out of people who need to walk, run or enjoy the beach for their mental health.”

Last weekend, Harbor Patrol made about 750 contacts on the beach in an effort to avoid rule breakers.

“The strategy we have taken on enforcement is really heavily educating people. We want them to understand why these restrictions have been put in place,” Ashton said.

San Luis Obispo County Public Health officials are also asking tourists to stay away. Many residents hope they listen so what happened in Orange County doesn't happen here.

In a statement sent to KSBY, the California Police Chiefs Association addressed the memo it sent to police chiefs Wednesday night:

In an ever-changing environment, we sent out information regarding decisions that were still evolving, which was regrettably shared outside of our police chief membership and we apologize for the undue concern that caused to the public, our colleagues, the Governor and his staff. The sole intent of the notification was to alert our members and give police chiefs time to prepare. We thank Governor Newsom for his continued leadership during this unprecedented pandemic and look forward to continuing working with him and his office to maintain the safety and health of our communities during this crisis.

The California Police Chiefs Association represents the state’s municipal police chiefs whose agencies protect over 26 million Californians.