Today, Monday March 23, 2020, is the day that vehicular access to all public St Johns County beaches and public beach parking lots is – and remains – prohibited until further notice; that according to an announcement from Hunter S. Conrad, the newly appointed County Administrator.
The template for the volume of restrictions, closings, and prohibitions is growing weary for businessmen and Historic City News readers who cherish their freedoms, not the least of which is their right to peaceful enjoyment of publicly owned property.
“In order to maximize compliance with State of Florida Executive Order 20-68, all public beach parking lots in St Johns County are closed under the local state of emergency, effective 6:00 a.m. on Monday, March 23rd, and will remain closed until further notice,” Conrad wrote. The boilerplate template is so insincere that it’s use is insulting. Just say, “St. Johns County Public Beach Parking Lots are Closed.”
Conrad claims that he evaluated near record beach attendance over the weekend. He says that he consulted with local law enforcement officials (presumably the sheriff and possibly the chief of the St Augustine Beach Police Department).
“The determination to close all public beach parking lots is based upon a recommendation to reduce health risks associated with COVID-19 and beach overcrowding,” Conrad wrote. “Please limit gatherings to no more than 10 persons and maintain a minimum distance of six feet between other parties in compliance with CDC guidelines.”
Publicly, Conrad declares that the goal is to allow the beaches to remain as accessible as possible to our residents. However, he concluded from his research that it was “clear to him” that the county needed to “take additional steps to further reduce the size of the crowds on our beaches”.
So, which goal is it, Hunter? Is your goal to protect resident beach access or to further reduce the size of the beach crowds by prohibiting vehicles in beach parking lots and on our public beaches?
This contradiction in goals is justified by Conrad under the pretext that he is “observing CDC guidelines and protecting the health, safety, and welfare of our community.”
Attempting to placate residents using the idea that St Johns County beaches remain open to “pedestrian access” is a red herring. Because, unless you live on the beach, you have no way to drive there and legally park your car when you arrive.
Meanwhile, in an apparent effort to distance himself from accountability for his decision, he blames his decision on the “recommendation” to ban all automobiles and other vehicles from the public beach and beach parking lots on the direction of the St Johns County Sheriff’s Office, the St Augustine Beach Police Department, St Johns County Emergency Management, and local health officials“.