Weekend beach closures keep holiday crowds away
Santa Barbara’s last minute beach closures seemed to have been successful during the Fourth of July.
Despite fears that the city’s shoreline would be overrun as surrounding counties closed their beaches, residents enjoyed the somewhat foggy but otherwise beautiful day while keeping crowds from forming.
Far fewer beachgoers were seen out and about than a typical Independence Day, but there were still plenty of families and friends walking, biking and swimming in the mid-70s heat.
All beaches in Santa Barbara County were closed to the public following an order from Santa Barbara’s County Health Officer Dr. Henning Ansorg. Due to a recent spike in local COVID-19 cases, the Public Health Department ordered all beaches closed for the Fourth of July weekend starting Friday until 11:59 p.m. Sunday.
Over the weekend, beaches and the nearby parks were restricted to active recreation only and all parking lots were closed. Groups could not be greater than nine people, coolers, beach chairs, umbrellas and barbecues were not allowed, and visitors were encouraged to socially distance and wear a mask.
Although some beachgoers snuck out a chair or managed to get a little sun bathing in, most groups along East Beach all the way to Leadbetter Beach were smaller than five people and remained a safe distance from each other. Despite the parking lot closures, there were plenty of runners and cyclists moving along the trail past the smattering of groups relaxing near the waves.
Beachgoers were not participating in explicitly Fourth of July activities like cooking out or setting off fireworks, but visitors could spot an American flag sundress or pair of swim shorts here and there.
“It’s been pretty good. We’re trying to tell people that they’ve got to keep moving and what not, to stay active and not sit on the beach,” said Conner Kinney, a lifeguard on East Beach.
Mr. Kinney and his fellow lifeguards were out patrolling the beach all day starting at 10 a.m. They said most beachgoers were compliant when asked to pack up or keep moving.
“In general they’re pretty nice. The park rangers have been out here helping us out too,” said Mr. Kinney.
“Most people seem cool with (the closure). The people that are setting up camp just don’t know. Everybody’s been pretty nice,” said Josh Kitt, another lifeguard.
Although there were fears over an influx of out of town visitors, Mr. Kinney and Mr. Kitt said the sparse crowd was a fair mix of both local and visiting beachgoers. There were more people on the beach than one would expect with the closure, though the crowds on Saturday looked like any other nice day in Santa Barbara.
“I’d say it’s an average day, but not an average Fourth of July at all,” said Mr. Kinney.
“I’d say this is 1/50th of who’s usually down here compared to a normal Fourth of July,” said Mr. Kitt.