Ventura Co. beaches and parks are open, but officials warn against group gatherings during hot weekend

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While beaches, parks and trails in Ventura County are open to the public this weekend amid a spring heat wave, officials asked residents not to gather in groups or plan for extended stays.

Additionally, they asked people not to visit from Los Angeles County, where beaches remain closed due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

“Please, please, please, do not drive from outside the area, particularly outside the county,” to visit Ventura County beaches, Oxnard Police Chief Scott Whitney said Friday. “I promise you, if you pack up your car and you think you’re going to spend a long day at the beach in our county, you’re going be disappointed because we’re going to turn you back.”

Whitney said that officers continue to educate residents on how to practice social distancing while outdoors, but have issued citations to people who are not complying with the county’s “stay well at home” order.

He said that beachgoers will not be allowed to visit for a long period of time and those who refuse to leave will be ticketed or arrested.

“It’s the last thing we want to do, but we have to ensure safety,” the chief said during the county’s coronavirus briefing.

As of Friday, the county had a total of 476 coronavirus cases and 16 deaths, according to Rigoberto Vargas, the county’s public health director.

He said the county and cities eased restrictions on the outdoors to allow residents to enjoy physical activity with their immediate family unit, but encouraged people to remain safe.

“Our numbers are looking good, and we want those numbers to continue to go down, and the only way we’re going to do that is to continue practicing social distancing,” Vargas said.

The three beaches managed by the county, as well as all beaches controlled by cities in the coastal area, have partially opened.

Amenities at local beaches and parks, including bathrooms, playgrounds, parking lots and campgrounds, remain closed to discourage long stays.

On Monday, the Ventura City Council voted to provide restricted access to parks, beaches, the promenade and pier, “in support of balancing residents’ physical and mental health while restricting non-essential activities,” officials said.

Residents are allowed to walk, hike, jog or bike as long as they don’t linger in any location and maintain a distance from others.

The Ventura Police Department may order an area closed for 24 hours if parks or beaches become overcrowded, according to the city.

After a third such closure, city beaches will be ordered closed until the end of the pandemic, Ventura Police Chief Darin Schindler said Friday.

“We do not want to have to do that, we’re hoping the public will police themselves,” he said.

Officials are aware that the warm temperatures and closure of neighboring beaches might draw crowds over the weekend, and said that there will be increased patrol by the Ventura County Sheriff’s Office to ensure that guidelines are met.

“Not following these soft-closure guidelines may result in our County-managed beaches being shut down for the foreseeable future,” Mark Sandoval, director of the county’s harbor department, said.

Despite posted signs about limited access at one of the county beaches Sandoval visited Friday, rules are “flat out being ignored,” he said.

“I implore you, please, come out, enjoy the beaches, but enjoy the beaches in an active manner,” Sandoval said.

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