SAN DIEGO – On the eve of the busiest beach holiday all year in San Diego, crowds flocked to local beaches Friday.
“This will be the warm-up for tomorrow,” Marine Safety Lt. Mauren Hodges said. “It is a long holiday weekend with nice weather. We finally got rid of the June gloom, so I think we will have pretty significant crowds throughout the weekend. That’s our expectation and that’s what we’re prepared for.”
San Diego County beaches are among the only open stretches of coast line in Southern California, as most others have closed in response to mounting positive coronavirus cases. On Friday, lifeguard officials from Encinitas, Del Mar and Coronado reported beach population estimates that were on par with or greater than populations from years past.
Encinitas Marine Safety Captain Larry Giles reported large crowds for the start of the holiday weekend.
“Our beach population today is about 30% to 35% more than it was the same day last year,” Giles said.
He also added that not all beachgoes are maintaining social distance. He called the beach population a “mixed bag” of those remaining socially distant and those who are not.
Encinitas lifeguards are providing free masks to anyone who requests one and reminding people to keep socially distant over the PA system. Giles also closed all fire pits.
Just south of Encinitas, Del Mar beaches saw similarly large crowds Friday, according to Marine Safety Deputy Chief Mark Rathsam.
Judging from the long lines at the bathroom and drone surveillance of the beach, Rathsam estimated crowds were larger than normal for a July 3. Although he did note that drone footage showed a majority of the beach population in Del Mar was maintaining six feet of distance.
“It is hard to tell we are in COVID,” Rathsam said. “There isn’t any parking for a mile.”
In Imperial Beach, many people were excited for Independence Day, but also had concerns.
John Adams said he believes people will pack the region because no neighboring counties have beaches open.
“That was my biggest concern,” Adams said. “People are going to be wanting to go since it’s the only beach open.”
Lifeguards said there will be no fireworks Saturday and the pier will close at 8:30 p.m.
While beaches remain open across San Diego County, compliance to COVID-19 health orders are expected.
“We’ll be setting the example with social distancing and wearing masks and we have the same expectation of the public and when they come to the beach,” Hodges said. “Respect one another’s space, maintain that six feet (of) social distancing when you can and make sure that you’re wearing your masks unless you’re actively in the water.”
Along with health safety, lifeguards encouraged people to practice water safety and keep an eye on small children.
As for 4th of July merrymakers, Hodges said to keep in mind that alcohol and glass is forbidden on the beaches and to follow all the rules when it comes to fires.
“Fires or barbecues need to be at least 12 to 18 inches off the sand in order to make sure that it’s not heating up the sand below,” Hodges said. “And we just ask that any coals people are using are properly extinguished and disposed of in the proper coal containers.”