Longboat remains cautious as world reopens

Editor & Publisher

The Town of Longboat Key is taking a decidedly cautious and incremental approach to opening public amenities and beach parking compared to its neighbors north and south.

Last week, the City of Sarasota in the face of mounting pressure, opened Lido Beach and its parking lots as well as Bird Key Park in time for what is likely to be a busy Memorial Day weekend.

Additionally, the City opened Gillespie and Arlington Parks to allow public tennis at its hard court facilities, while the Payne Park Tennis Center and its 14 clay courts are open for singles play.

Sarasota and Manatee County opened their beaches and parking earlier than the city, as well as their public park amenities.

Longboat Key has taken a different route. Its public beaches never formally closed, but all public beach accesses and parking have been closed. Longboat Key has also not opened tennis or pickle ball at Bayfront Park, but is allowing singles play at the public tennis center.

The decidedly different approach taken by Longboat Key reflects what Town Manager Tom Harmer refers to as the uniquely vulnerable population on the barrier island.

Harmer is empowered to make the final decision as to when to open the island for doubles tennis as well as beach parking. Harmer said that the rules in effect will be evaluated in the coming week and will either be extended into June or there may be what he refers to as incremental further opening of activities.

The Town last week posted bright signs at both the north and south entrances to the island alerting would-be beachgoers that there is no public parking for beaches on Longboat Key.


Masking the problem

Longboat Key Fire Chief Paul Dezzi said the Town has been monitoring social activities in both restaurants and on the beach and he is happy to report that people are naturally distancing themselves.

Dezzi added that the town will reevaluate its beach parking policy after Memorial Day and said that the town cannot regulate parking on private property.

As for actual cases of the Covid-19 virus, Dezzi said that there have been no new cases since March 21 on Longboat Key.

“We’ve been lucky. But until there’s a vaccine, nobody is completely safe,” said Dezzi.

Dezzi said that he recommends that people wear masks because most people don’t know if they have the virus and could be a carrier, and they don’t know if other people have it. He said that young people who feel healthy might not wear a mask if they are outside and using social distancing, but should if they are around someone who is vulnerable.

Dezzi agrees and supports the policy of a cautious reopening of the island.

“We acted pretty quickly on restrictions and that’s why I think our curve flattened quickly. We will follow behind what other communities are doing. It is easy to open up, but hard to re-close. It is sometimes not a popular decision, but we have to make tough decisions,” said Dezzi.

Dezzi said the majority of those testing positive for Covid-19 in the region are coming from healthcare facilities. But he does not see any indicators suggesting that the town should tighten any restrictions.

“I have to commend the citizens for listening,” Dezzi added as he praised property managers, the Chamber of Commerce and fellow town employees.

The town is now looking at how it would handle residents and employees if a hurricane were to strike during the current coronavirus situation. Certain variables include how to handle evacuations and shelters if a storm were to occur during a viral pandemic.

But the good news for both Dezzi and most of the region is that the Covid-19 pandemic was not as bad, and did not hit as hard in the region as was feared.

Now, the town is deciding how to best proceed with the cautious reopening of some of the final closed components of public life.

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1 Response for “Longboat remains cautious as world reopens”

  1. Steve Keller says:

    Our City management should be commended for their handling of COVID restrictions in a manner which reflects the reality of our demographics rather than just going with the flow set by Sarasota/Manatee counties.

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