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Impacts from regional beach closures expected in Santa Barbara County

Santa Claus - Padaro Beach
John Palminteri
Open beach communities in Montecito and Carpinteria carefully plan how they will handle influx of 4th of July visitors. Parking, trash, coronavirus risks and impacts on neighborhoods all driving emotional reactions. (Photo: John Palminteri)
Miramar beach parking
John Palminteri
Open beach communities in Montecito and Carpinteria carefully plan how they will handle influx of 4th of July visitors. Parking, trash, coronavirus risks and impacts on neighborhoods all driving emotional reactions. (Photo: John Palminteri)

CARPINTERIA, Calif. - The closure of beaches in Los Angeles and Ventura Counties this 4th of July weekend will put a strain on Santa Barbara County beaches that remain open during the coronavirus crisis.

In prior closures nearby, thousands of people came to Santa Barbara County where the beaches were not off limits, and parking was only restricted in some areas.

It's a highly charge debate between those who favor beach closures as a logical extension of the decisions made in nearby counties, and those who say the open space is healthy.

OUTCRY OF OPINIONS

There's a wide range of suggestions coming from the public via email, social media and in public comment periods to the Santa Barbara City Council.

Some include:

  • Checking identifications and only allowing local residents
  • Barricading the beaches and closing them off
  • Closing the beaches along with the nearby parks and trails
  • Restricting beach use to just exercise
  • Discouraging gatherings by banning barbecues and picnic table reservations
  • Enforcing time limit parking
  • Adding more foot patrols to encourage people to wear a mask and maintain a personal distance
  • Schedule the Sheriff's dept. mounted patrol all weekend
  • Increasing more signage about the restrictions and mask requirements

In recent weeks illegal fireworks have been upsetting residents in many communities including last night in West Downtown Santa Barbara where police reported to a fight over fireworks.

There will be more outreach including community information tents in downtown Santa Barbara to help people with any COVID-19 questions or issues with the local rules.

Carpinteria is closing two blocks in downtown to have outside seating as a way to provide more spacing at restaurants.

There is also a welcoming banner sign in downtown for anyone visiting but it is followed by an electronic sign board with the COVID-19 rules.

"It concerns me and sometimes I will step on the sand a little bit and face the other way," said Alice Richter.   She says she is trying to be responsible.   "Sometimes I walk on the sidewalk,  sometimes I will walk on  the campground grass just to distance myself, and sometimes I walk by the cars."

While going through a volleyball workout,  Madison Tobin said she was aware of the risks. "We are a pretty small town,  there are a lot of elderly people, we don't need everyone to get sick." 

RELATED: Beach parking restrictions announced for Santa Barbara, Carpinteria

 Beaches are open in Carpinteria,  Summerland and Montecito,   the first communities just past Ventura and Los Angeles counties which are closed for the 4th of July.

Tatyana Sverdlova a visitor said, "you have to get some fresh air anyway and indoors it is never fresh air."

Areas like Santa Claus Lane can get swamped with cars and people, very quickly on hot holiday and weekend days.

Near Miramar Beach, time limits on parking have been imposed.

There are still many impacts on busy days, including piles of trash.

Tobin said, "not everybody who visits here comes back to clean up their trash,  it is all the locals that clean it up." 

Her friend,  Tahlah Farrell said,  "I do think there should be a limit."  Including marked off areas. "There's a lot of people right next to each other so just section it out."

In all Central Coast communities the issue of closing beaches, streets and parks is a balance between keeping the economy alive and aggressively controlling the coronavirus pandemic.

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John Palminteri

John Palminteri is senior reporter for KEYT NewsChannel 3 and KCOY 12 Central Coast News.