With temperatures expected to be in the upper 80s on the South Coast, the beach is going to be a hot attraction this weekend.
Under normal circumstances, large beach crowds bring added pressure on lifeguards.
That pressure to keep beachgoers safe figures to be magnified as they deal with the concerns that come with the coronavirus pandemic.
Tony Sholl, supervisor for aquatics and lifeguard services for the Santa Barbara Parks & Recreation Department, said his beach lifeguards are prepared for the added challenge to the job.
The city lifeguards cover East Beach, West Beach and Leadbetter Beach.
“We have worked with the fire department to learn and adapt their new protocols when contacting and treating medical aids and we have also worked with the California Surf Lifesaving Association to adapt guidelines for front line lifeguards,” Sholl said. “All on-duty lifeguards will receive N95 masks, goggles and gloves when on duty. They will also be directed to wear a face covering when making public contacts.”
Besides keeping a close eye on people in the water, lifeguards will encourage physical distancing as best they can.
“The lifeguards will also make contact with large groups and ask them to disperse and practice social distancing,” Sholl said. “Contacting all beachgoers regarding social distancing simply is not possible for our lifeguards to do while maintaining a vigilant eye on the water. However, as the lifeguard truck is making its patrols, they will contact individual groups on an as needed basis.”
With the volleyball nets taken down at East Beach and West Beach, beachgoers will not be permitted to use their own equipment at the beach.
“We are not allowing personal volleyball nets to be put up because that does not promote social distancing,” Sholl said.
The city, in an effort to discourage large gatherings in the grassy picnic areas at Leadbetter Beach, was placing plastic fencing around tables on Friday afternoon.
Sholl is encouraging beachgoers to follow the same protocol that is used when grocery shopping.
“If you decide to come to the beach, please continue to practice social distancing like you are at the grocery store,” he said. “Santa Barbara has been fortunate enough to keep its open spaces open for the community to enjoy in these unprecedented times. This has been in large part due to the community’s social distancing practices and common sense courtesies.
“So please, help keep your beaches and open spaces available to all by continuing with your efforts to flatten the curve of COVID-19 in Santa Barbara County.”
Santa Barbara County beach lifeguards will remind people to social distance.
Hendry’s or Arroyo Burro Beach is a county beach.
“We want to avoid a lot of people crowding into a space,” County Parks Superintendent Jeff Lindgren said.
Parks parks staff will monitor the amount of visitors at beaches and parks and will decide to shut down vehicle access and parking if physical distancing guidelines are not being followed.
Parks with vehicle access that are closed may remain open as long as people maintain 6 feet of physical distance from one another.
As of Friday, the county had instituted closures of campgrounds, the Goleta Beach Pier boat launch, playgrounds, dog parks, and barbecue and picnic areas.