Residents across the county can take heart in a little more normalcy starting this weekend as Flagler Beach will end its parking restrictions along the boardwalk, while the county will lift the burn ban that’s been in effect just one week.
The lifting of parking restrictions starting at 7 Saturday morning is one more step in the gradual reopening of society and the economy in the wake of the coronavirus emergency. But the pier will remain closed for now, pending further discussions between Flagler Beach Police Chief Matt Doughney and Bob Snyder, who heads the Flagler Department of Health. So will the picnic tables along the boardwalk, and Wadsworth Park across the bridge.
“The picnic tables are just a natural place for people to congregate,” Doughney said, “and when we originally took the tour two months ago Bob Snyder and I, we found that was a place people gathered.” Doughney and Snyder had toured the beach ahead of their decision to close the beach, the pier and the boardwalk in March. The beach started reopening just after the middle of April, and was fully reopened on April 25.
Residents and visitors are still urged to abide by social distancing recommendations along the boardwalk, with gatherings limited to fewer than 10 people, and distances of six feet between people still sought. City staff, including police, will be monitoring compliance, though since the beginning of the emergency, authorities have taken a light hand to enforcement, focusing on education and recommendations rather than punishment. (Parking tickets are a different story: the city is writing parking citations, though people are not paying them, with with $48,000 in unpaid parking tickets over three years, according to the police chief, who himself enforced six violations, wrote three warnings and three citations last weekend.)
The pier is a challenge when it comes to social distancing. It’s only 20 feet wide and has been shorter by dozens of feet since Hurricane Matthew sheared off its eastern end, eliminating that broader area that fishermen enjoyed. Doughney said he will study how other communities with piers are handling their reopenings, while the city may consider opening its pier only to passholders at first.
Meanwhile fishing on the beach and the walking of pets will continue to be permitted only north of 10th Street North and south of 10th Street South, though all other beachgoers have open access to that 20-block zone.
“We appreciate everyone’s patience during this time of uncertainty and as always, a big thanks to Bob Snyder and our local Department of Health-Flagler for their guidance and partnership in the safe re-openings in Flagler Beach,” Doughney said.
As for the burn ban, a week’s worth of rain, and more coming, will make it unnecessary to maintain. “Actually it’s going to run out tomorrow, so we’re going to let it die,” Flagler County Fire Chief Don Petito said.
When Petito declared it just before Memorial Day weekend, the average drought index for the county, on a scale of zero to 800, was approaching 500, with 800 as the driest conditions, and several wildfires spread around the county. But it’s been raining steadily since, lowering the index to 261 on average in the county, as of today.
“I don’t give any forecasts because when I said there wasn’t going to be any rain it changed right after I put the burn ban in,” Petito joked this afternoon. Still, he said, long-term forecasts are calling for drier-than-normal conditions for the county.
And in further signs of returning normalcy, Palm Coast announced the resumption of its Mayor’s 90/90 Challenge starting June 1, and through June 30. The Challenge is designed to encourage residents to be active and embrace a healthier lifestyle. Original dates were Jan. 6 through April 4.
“I encourage everyone to safely get back into their fitness routines,” Mayor Milissa Holland was quoted as saying in a city release. “Our beautiful city has so many wide-open spaces for our residents to maintain social distancing while logging their miles. We also have premier facilities for golf, tennis and pickleball that offer little or no contact for players. I want everyone to enjoy the healthy lifestyle they deserve and to be safe and considerate of others along the way. Let’s finish this challenge even stronger than we started.”
With recent reopening measures and guidelines in place, participants can log their miles (with 30 miles being the goal) starting on on June 1, and through Palm Coast Connect.
Due to social distancing guidelines, some events through Parks & Recreation had to be cancelled. The following parks and their respective trails are open. Hours are 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Bird of Paradise Nature Preserve
Central Park in Town Center
Heroes Memorial Park
Hidden Lakes Trail
Long Creek Nature Preserve
Palm Coast Linear Park/St. Joe Walkway
Waterfront Park/Intracoastal Waterway Trail
Additionally, the following recreational amenities are open with limitations.
Palm Coast Tennis Center
Palm Harbor Golf Club
James F. Holland Memorial Park
Belle Terre Park
Tennis/pickleball courts only
Seminole Woods Neighborhood Park
Tennis courts only
For the purpose of the challenge, 15 minutes of any activity equals one mile. While exercising, you can use #Mayors9090 and #ConnectToFitness on social media to connect with others in the Challenge.