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Nassau Beaches Remain Closed; Officials Don’t Want ‘Knee-Jerk Reaction’

Sand dune rising up, footsteps in them, cones in front of the pathway blcoking off the entrance to the beach
David Luckin
While Duval beaches will open beginning April 17 at 5 pm, beaches in Nassau County will remain closed through at least the weekend.

While Duval County and St. Johns County officials are choosing to reopen their beaches for essential exercise and activities, Nassau County is not ready to give beachgoers the green light yet. 

“Just to have a concerted plan, if you would, when it comes time to reopen the beach and when it’s safe and appropriate to do so, and not that knee-jerk reaction that maybe we’ve just seen by our neighbor to the south,” County Commissioner Daniel Leeper said at a Friday meeting. 

The Nassau Board of County Commissioners met to discuss counties to the south reopening their beaches. 

“We want to make sure it’s safe,” said Mike Mullins, the Nassau County Manager and Attorney. “It’s not something you can just do overnight.” 

Some of Nassau’s beaches and coastline is run by the state at Fort Clinch State Park, while other areas are controlled by the city of Fernandina Beach. The rest is unincorporated and controlled at the county level. 

“The goal is to try to coordinate, because it's hard for people to distinguish when you're on the beach in the city or in the county,” Mullin said.

Another issue is resources. Mullin said life guards won’t be available to return until at least May 4, highlighting safety concerns. There are also issues with police enforcement to make sure people aren’t having large group gatherings on the beach or remaining stationary. 

“Calls are up for certain types of issues, domestic issues,” Mullin said. “We have a department that's heavily impacted. We have to make sure they're able to provide enforcement in the unincorporated area so that people will stay safe and keeping distance.”

There is also a concern for spring breakers coming from other areas of the country.

“Will we be bringing more people to our beaches?” Mullin said. “I don’t know how many typically go to Duval this time of year, but ours could be heavily impacted.”

Mullin also said Nassau County is concerned if social distancing is possible on the beach right now. Officials were on a call with UF Shands just a few days ago, and they heard different guidelines for social distancing.

“Activities on the beach when you're running and walking, how to expect social distance go out about 27 feet, not six feet, so we're factoring all that,” Mullin said.

On April 21 and April 22, Fernandina Beach and Nassau County will each have a meeting to address reopening the beaches, but they will remain closed through the weekend.

Sky Lebron can be reached at, 904-358-6319 or on Twitter at@SkylerLebron.

Former WJCT News reporter