In response to the threat of COVID-19, Collier County has closed Tigertail and South Beach. The City of Marco Island has closed all public beach access and beach parking lots including Resident’s Beach parking.
The following is Marco Island’s City Manager Mike McNees recorded message to all residents of Marco Island on March 20, 2020, as follows:
I want to provide some information to the Community about something that is a very hot topic right now—and that is access to Marco Island’s Beaches. It is not unusual in March to be talking about the beach, but this year it is a little bit different. We are trying very hard to deal with the public health issues that we have with the COVID-19 virus and take steps to help protect the public health.
And we are following very closely the recommendations of our National and our statewide experts in that regard. In that way, when you look at our beach, the main thing we are trying to manage is crowd size. We are trying to manage how many people are on the beach, what kind of gatherings we have, are they massed together or are they maintaining appropriate social distancing?
On Thursday, the Governor of Florida talked about beaches and he said, “I am not going to close Florida Beaches because local conditions are different and I am going to rely on the local authorities to act appropriately.”
I believe that is exactly what we are doing in Marco Island. I want to explain what we are thinking and where we are. First of all, where we are in Marco is we have closed all public beach parking and all public beach access.
Effective at sundown today, March 20, 2020, that will include the Residents Beach that is operated by the Marco Island Civic Association. The thought process is that it is NOT the beach itself that is a hazard—it is large crowds. When we eliminate the ability for large numbers of people to gather in one spot, which is closing the parking does for us, then we eliminate the ability for people to gather in mass.
We also have community service officers on the beach circulating among the folks that are there to ensure that they understand the guidelines and exercising the appropriate social distances and that we don’t have any issues related to that.
And for one or two people to go and take a walk on the beach, is NOT in anyone’s mind at this point; at least not in the mind of any of the health experts any kind of a hazard. In fact, going outside and taking a walk is one of the things that they recommend. So, we are not going to chase anyone off the beach. What we are doing is limiting the parking, limiting the access points, keeping the numbers down.
Now I understand that there are a lot of people that feel like, “Gee that is not fair. I don’t own a condominium on the beach. I don’t have an access point to the beach. And so why can they walk on the beach and I can’t?” To some degree, that is the luck of the draw in this situation where there really isn’t any public health issue related to one or two people leaving their condos and walking on the beach. They are NOT putting anyone at risk or themselves at risk—so to say they can’t do it—really, we don’t have a good lever for that.
So, it is not perfectly fair but what we will do is to continue to monitor the situation and the more responsible we behave. Not only at the beach, but everywhere at our restaurants and in any public gatherings. But the more responsibly we behave in exercising the social distancing recommendations and in maintaining your own precautions, then the less government will have to step in and exercise more specific restrictions. We appreciate your patience and your accommodations to these rules. I end by saying, wash your hands, stay calm, act reasonably, and responsibly, and thank you for listening.
—Mike McNees, City Manager Marco Island
You may view the complete video of the City Manager’s community address through the city website.