The number of places to get out and enjoy nature over the Easter holiday weekend is shrinking, but there are still some opportunities—as long as people follow social distancing rules under the Monterey County shelter-in-place order.
If they don’t, those privileges will be revoked quickly by authorities, officials say.
After considerable public pressure to act, Monterey County announced April 7, it was shutting down its parks beginning sunrise on Saturday, April 11, until further notice. Santa Cruz County's health officer shut down all beaches, park and trail access, as well as banned surfing, through April 15. California State Parks followed suit by closing all its beaches in Santa Cruz County, and on Friday announced all Big Sur parks are closed from sunset on Friday until further notice.
Carmel took a middle-ground approach by shutting down parking opportunities near Carmel Beach on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. It closed the Del Mar Parking Lot and parking along Scenic Road from 8th-13th. There’s also no parking on the west side of Scenic from Ocean to13th avenues and the eastside of San Antonio Avenue from 8th-13th avenues.
Two of Monterey County’s beach cities are taking more of a wait-and-see approach—as in, wait to see if everyone abides by the rules of the shelter-in-place order before making any decisions to close off access. That was the message from Monterey in a press briefing by phone with Assistant City Manager Nat Rojanasathira on Friday.
“We are not encouraging people to visit city beaches,” Rojanasathira said. The message Monterey officials are pushing to residents is to get exercise by walking in their own neighborhoods.
That being said, Monterey officials aren’t shutting beaches either. Instead, they are increasing Monterey Police patrols of the shore area to break up any large groups or remind people to stay apart. If it becomes a persistent problem, the city is prepared to shut down beaches immediately.
It’s a similar message in Pacific Grove, where City Manager Ben Harvey says he gave police the authority to close any parks or city beaches if people aren’t complying. His city installed signage along the shore reminding people they have to follow the rules or risk closures. Parks remain open but playgrounds are closed.
(If anyone visits some beaches in Monterey, Pacific Grove or Pebble Beach, it's recommended they stay out of the water due to high levels of bacteria that could make people ill, according to a beach advisory issued by the Monterey Health Department on Friday. The specific beaches impacted are Monterey Municipal Beach at Wharf II, Lovers Point Beach, and Stillwater Cove near the Beach Club.)
California State Parks rangers and lifeguards will have more of a presence on state beaches in Monterey and Pacific Grove, as well as other state beaches like Moss Landing. All parking lots to state beaches are closed, which is more of a deterrent to people driving from far away, says Brent Marshall, the superintendent of the Monterey district. Locals can still access beaches by foot. There is no parking lot along Asilomar State Beach—parking won’t be restricted along the roadway.
The Big Sur parks closing at sunset on Friday until further notice include:
- Andrew Molera State Park
- Julia Pfeiffer Burns
- Pfeiffer Big Sur
- Point Lobos State Natural Reserve
State Parks officials are encouraging people to “stay home and save lives,” asking them to celebrate Passover and Easter in home and with loved ones virtually, according to a press release issued Friday.
“Road trips to destination parks and beaches are strongly discouraged at this time,” it said.
Vehicle access had already been closed to State Parks, as well as restrooms, trails, campgrounds, museums and visitor centers.
As for city parks, some have closed entirely, some remain open except for playground equipment which remains off-limits during the latest shelter-in-place order. Information changes quickly so it's best to check city websites or call ahead of visiting a location.