Volusia County to reopen beaches for leisure on May 2, with distancing guidelines

Volusia County will lift limitations to its beaches beginning May 2, officials announced on Thursday.

Beachgoers have been required to engage in physical activity such as walking or jogging and then leave the beach when they were done. But beginning Saturday, those restrictions will be lifted and sitting, sunbathing and other activities will be permitted once again. 

Beachgoers will be required to visit in groups of six or lesss and must maintain a distance of 10 feet from other groups of people. Family units can sit together.  Off-beach lots will be opening for limited parking during this time. Restrooms and splash pads will remain closed.

During a news conference on Thursday, county leaders said they have had the opportunity to review the Phase One reopening guidlines outlined by the state and believe they will be able to operate in accordance which that plan.

"The plans that we have phased in to open Volusia County fits in well with the governor's plan," said Volusia County ChairEd Kelly. "We're going to be returning to a normal period of our life that's going to be different from the normal we had."

"We want to run, but it's time crawl.  It's time to take baby steps," said Volusia County Sheriff Mike Chitwood.

The sheriff emphasized personal responsiblity of beachgoers to follow the rules.

"Make sure we practice social distancing, make sure we pracgice good hygiene, make sure that we don't overrun certain areas and that we spread out," said Volusia County Sheriff Mike Chitwood. "Most of all, let's think of our first responders out there, in particular the Beach Patrol. Let's not have them work any harder than they had to work."

To prevent crowding, other than three beach vehicle ramps for handicapped access, all other beach ramps remain closed to vehicles.  However, parking along county rights-of-way adjacent to the beach are open. 

The number of available parkng spots will largely depend on the volume of beachgoers near each parking area. Potential areas include the county’s coastal parks as well as Michael Crotty Bicentennial Park, Wisteria Road parking lot and Dahlia Avenue Park. Parking at these locations will be limited to prevent crowding on the beach. Lighthouse Point Park and Smyrna Dunes Park will also open Saturday at partial capacity.

Despite the opening of the beaches to all activities, Kelley still urged residents in high risk categories to play it safe.

“I would like to reiterate what the Governor said yesterday regarding the higher risk population,” Kelley said. “Those of you that are the higher risk, if you have underlying medical conditions, if you feel that you’re not well, please stay home and limit your risk of exposure for your own benefit.”