The Surfrider Foundation HQ and the three Surfrider chapters in Orange County worked together to urge the County of Orange Board of Supervisors to develop a beach access and coastal recreation plan that is protective of public health during COVID-19 that also provides for active recreation on our beaches and in the ocean. The majority of Supervisors supported a motion to swiftly have county staff under Orange County Parks direction develop an active beach recreation management plan covering 42 miles of county beaches that was approved by the Governor’s office.
While we’re grateful that some of us are now able to legally return to the coast, we acknowledge that some beach re-openings are inherently exclusionary. With parking lots closed at the outset, the beaches will only be open for those who can walk, bike or find transportation to them at the beginning. Further, allowed activities are limited to “active” recreation including surfing, swimming, walking and running. Sunbathing, picnicking, volleyball and general gathering are still prohibited for the time being.
For 35 years, Surfrider has advocated for equal access to our coastal commons regardless of who you are, where you live, how much money you make or how you like to enjoy our world’s ocean, waves and beaches. Given the unique circumstances surrounding COVID-19, we acknowledge that prioritizing public health requires reopening the beaches in an incremental fashion slowly allowing more and more Californians the opportunity to safely enjoy the mental and physical benefits of being at the beach.
With stay-at-home orders specifically allowing exercise as an essential activity, we urge folks to continue the practice of physical distancing and to avoid crowded public spaces including our trails, parks and beaches. We acknowledge and regret that public health precautions prevent the beaches from being safely reopened for all people at the present moment. Working together to adhere to local public health guidelines is the best way to minimize the spread of COVID-19. Surfrider is determined to continue supporting our community through this public health crisis while remaining committed to our goal of equitable coastal access for all.