Sheriff Bob Gaultieri discussing Pinellas County beaches opening on May 4, 2020. Yahoo News (Screenshot/Kathryn Malaxos)

Pinellas Sheriff Says Success For First Open Beach Day

in news/town square

Hundreds flocked to Pinellas County beaches Monday and all went well, according to Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gaultieri.

Gaultieri told the Pinellas County Commissioners this morning that 300 officers were stationed along the 35 miles of beachfront from Tarpon Springs down to Fort DeSoto as well as along the Gandy Blvd and Courtney Campbell Causeway waterfronts.

This includes 250 county deputies, officers from nearby municipalities, and officers from the Florida Highway Patrol. He said they were stationed at every beach access point and beach area parking lots.

“Yesterday was a very successful day,” he said, “It was a very busy day for early May but everybody abided by the distancing requirements and followed the rules.”

For an opening after people had not been able to go to the beach in a long time, it was a “very successful day,” he said.

He said the greatest challenge will come on the weekend when more people are expected to head to the beaches but the county will be prepared.

He said Fred Howard Park in Tarpon Springs and the Dunedin Causeway were at about 85 to 90 percent capacity while Honey Moon Island (a state park) was at about 50 percent capacity (which is all that is allowed now).

The Sheriff said he will ask state park officials if the capacity at Honeymoon Island could be increased. He said there were about 2,500 people in the park which was just about the allowed 50 percent capacity of 3,000.

“I’d like to see that number up to 4,000 because if they don’t, it will just create a bottleneck of traffic along the Causeway,” he said.

Another area of concern was at Pass-A-Grille where a public parking lot with 700 spaces filled up by noon. Visitors started parking on city streets which are for city residents with parking permits. “We had to limit access to Pass-A-Grille to control it,” he said.

Gaultieri presented a slide show of beach photographs taken from a helicopter that demonstrated how beach goers were keeping safe social distance. He said photographs taken from ground level could be misleading because it can look like the area is more crowded.

Walt spent 35 years as a reporter, feature writer. TV critic and columnist for The Tampa Tribune. Prior to that he worked in the public relations office at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, and as a reporter for The Greenville (SC) News. He and his wife, Debbie, have lived in Safety Harbor for 10 years. He also taught media writing courses at the University of Tampa. Since moving here, he has been active with the Safety Harbor Art and Music Center, hosting a monthly storytelling night.