Gilley looking at how to reopen beaches

At the virtual “Coffee with the Commissioner” this morning, County Administrator Janice Gilley said she’s looking at ways to reopen beaches in Escambia County, even though the decision to keep them close was made less than a week ago.

Commissioner Jeff Bergosh brought up the beaches at the “coffee.”

“How important do you think that decision was?” he asked Dawn Rudolph, Ascension Sacred Heart Hospital’s president. “I got a lot of emails. In fact, I’m still getting them today, saying, ‘Can’t you just open it up for people to go fishing or surfing?’ From your expert vantage point, why was that so critical for us to do that?”

Rudolph, Ascension Sacred Heart Hospital president, defended the letter from the hospitals and the local medical society asking the commissioners to keep the beaches closed.

“To be the only beaches open across the Gulf Coast would be a magnet for people not just in Pensacola,” she said Dawn Rudolph. “You’d be bringing people in from southern Alabama, New Orleans.”

Rudolph added, “This is just such a place for tourism. Why don’t you come when we’re ready for you? I know it’s been a sacrifice. I’ve missed it as well. I think it’s prudent. I think it was the right thing to do.”

Knowing that the state can’t stop everybody at every state border, she said, “I think it was the right decision at the right time to keep this as quiet as possible in that curve.”

The commissioner stayed on the issue.

“Janice, you’re probably aware of this,” Bergosh said. “Cocoa Beach has now put something out to where they’re going to allow active use of the beach. Fishing, swimming, running, jogging, walking, but not lounging. Not putting out a towel and hanging out and building a pyramid with beer cans.”

He asked County Administrator Janice Gilley, “What about something like that here for just locals? I’m just saying it. I don’t want the news to report that I’m in favor of it. I’m just curious, what would your opinion be of something like Cocoa Beach, what they’re doing?

Gilley was aware of the Cocoa Beach plan and called it “a pretty smart alternative in terms of trying to balance the enjoyment of the outdoors with, I think as Dawn and you both said, the treasure that we have here.”

The city of Cocoa Beach is a town of 11,737 people, and its council passed an order on April 3 that closed its public beaches to all activities except walking, jogging, biking, fishing, surfing and swimming.

  • Activities such as sunbathing, sitting in chairs, organized sports or laying on blankets and grouping of persons is not permitted.
  • A minimum of six foot social distancing shall apply. When your activity is complete, you will be required to leave the beach area.
  • Beach parking, beach access parking, and the parking garage will remain closed.
  • Failure to comply with the Order may result in further restrictions being applied.
  • Fine for violation (pursuant to Cocoa Beach City Code Section 8.5-6) is set at $500 per occurrence.

Gilley made a light of Rudolph’s concerns about hurting the county’s ability to “quiet” the spread of the virus, ignored the hospital president’s concerns about people from infected areas coming to the beaches, and characterized the commissioners’ 4-1 vote as happening because they didn’t believe people would follow rules.

“You all had to take action because we, for whatever reason, weren’t completely convinced that the public would follow the rules in terms of not having large groups come together and potentially spread the virus,” said the county administrator.

Gilley said she was considering using lifeguards, code enforcement officers and “one of our animal officers that we have on the beach” to enforce an order similar to the city of Cocoa Beach.

“I have not looked at any videos of Cocoa Beach, so I would want to do that and see how they are able to manage it, and if the citizens have responded appropriately to the liberty that has been given to them,” she said. “I have been trying to look at Georgia and South Carolina, as I understand they’ve also opened some of beaches this past weekend with similar restriction.”

Cocoa Beach also has a  temporary ban on consuming or possession of alcoholic beverages on the beaches of Cocoa Beach. The fine for the violation is $500. The ban went into effect on March 20.

In my Outtakes this week, I agree the county should be focusing on expanding testing, not bingo parlors and beaches – More Testing, Dammit.


1 thought on “Gilley looking at how to reopen beaches


    Our eyes locked. A much older man and I.

    We were pumping gas on opposite sides of the Isle… me on pump 6 facing north and he on pump 5 facing south. Locking eyes neither of us nodded, but our locked eyes acknowledged our shared fear, angst, uncertainty and frustration, as we both now know and accept our mutual lot. A puzzle, the coronavirus is. It’s the taker of lives , the breaker of dreams, and the revealer of beauty all together. Because of it, we are sharing a resting place, a resting time.. a recognition of the things that we have in common in a crooked and often hard world that rather create and exploit divisions… turning to loving and understanding in its place, spurred by mutual angst and uncertainty . Like the waving of the flag after 9/11, there was a sense of unity… a togetherness that I see now. More death is eminent (with its pain) and our kindness is showing. The latter washed over me when locking eyes with a kindred soul. On the same day in that same sequence of activity, while entering the store to pay for my gas, a young black man opened the door for me as we both entered together…with him in front. The same man, while standing in front of me, dropped a nickel while receiving his change… to have me bend down to pick it up and give it to him. He was a kind man. Upon leaving, he wished the cashier and I a blessed day. Then, a very tall young tattooed white gentleman open the door for me as I was going out.

    Later, there was the lady in Publix with whom I struck up small talk with about my amazement that lysol is nowhere to be found in town and the same for toilet tissue, when she volunteers that the store allows for the purchase of two packs of hand tissues and told me ( a stranger) that she’s using them as toilet paper. There is a beauty in the air from a sense of us being in the same boat .. being in it all together… easier to strike up conversations, to lock eyes away from our phones, to smile at the stranger or even shake your heads together at the strangeness of the moment.

    This is not 9/11 when we had a sense of who our enemy was, at least we had a target to point to … to blame.. to punish; but here, there is no such enemy. Here, the enemy is benign.. as its nature itself and the science of the universe to also remind us that we share a common place… the world, as neighbors… as a part of the same humanity. Natures beauty and the beauty of our mutual humanity has brought us face to face with nature personified, as the broken and errant part of it, the ugly, the death…… a virus. There is a beauty here though even among the sadness we share with lost lives and lost dreams, for which we have grave condolences for the former, and a question of God’s will for the latter. The lessons of our shared sameness and broken down equality is a rich one here. It is when the wealthy have sought government money well before the poor… beating the poor to it.

    Today, the rich and the poor together are seeking help from the government’s teat. One group, while considered titans of industry, have been brought down low.. to their knees. Today, the rich themselves go to the grocery stores to realize that no matter their wealth, they could not make toilet paper appear on their grocery store shelves… the same as the poor. Gas is cheaper than ever, but neither the rich nor the poor have anywhere they can go as movements are restricted together. We get to see the sameness in us when men of power have spent so many waking hours and hundreds of years to suggest there are innate advantages of intellect, skill, and morals itself. For the second group, it’s quality of life and the limits of their dreams are often determined by societies reaction to their race, ethnicity and gender, to now look into each other’s scared eyes to now know the truth… that our human equality has always been with us except for the lies we tell ourselves that are spurred by our all so human greed and fears.

    For the wealthy. the usual trappings of said wealth for the purchasing of power, the purchases of escapism or perhaps the ability to surround oneself with aesthetics that we are told are the best representation of beauty…because of store closures , economies and travel restrictions perhaps are not attractive pursuits. We are forced to talk or be quiet with our spouse, our friends, our family… as we will learn quickly that escapism through television , movies and etc has its own shelf life. Maybe you will talk to your neighbor, watch a bird or a butterfly as you reacquaint yourself to your own surroundings outside as we embark upon spring. Maybe we will slow down, look up, and realize what love is again.. to know what being connected not to technology, but to people is like again. Yes, beautiful coronavirus… you may teach us.

    I often go back to the young woman I saw picking up trash off of the side of the road a year ago, whom I stopped to snap pictures of, as she did it with her two kids…one in a stroller. For when I asked why she was doing it .. she said because it’s the least she can do. Today, I’m looking at my backyard, my street, the people around me as if they are new creatures. We’re accustomed to the hustle and bustle, the burying our faces in phones, in meetings, shopping online for unnecessary things .. seemingly all to avoid looking at ourselves squarely in the mirror to see our plainness and our sameness. Coronavirus has revealed our beauty, our sameness and forced us to look up, to look at each other and to know our togetherness… know that person who we’ve been told is the “other.”

    There will be the other side of this moment in the world… the place where its over… the virus contained. We will not be the same… there is a shifting of who we are for the good. God and the universe are likely at play as hatred had become weighty in our everyday lives. We all could feel it. It began to weigh on our souls to even poison the generations behind us that are to sustain this planet when my bones are dry and buried. Nothing can replace the loved ones that will be lost from this scourge of a virus, no matter the uplifting words one can write.

    We seek condolences for their families. In the end, we may find that rather than destroying civilization, coronavirus has saved it and all humanity itself as we can now see ugliness more clearly and show love for each other more often. Beautiful Deadly Coronavirus you got us, you’ve changed us.

    Michael Dobson is a Tallahassee based third generation Floridian, columnist, President of Dobson, Craig and Associates, Founder of Talking Florida Politics. and President /CEO pf The Dream Foundation

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