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Re-Opening Debate Rages On In Manhattan Beach

Apr 18, 2020 09:21AM ● By Jeanne Fratello

Signage, tape, and sawhorses remind visitors that Polliwog Park is closed due to coronavirus-related social distancing mandates.

To open or not to open Manhattan Beach's public spaces? This is the question that has passions running high in Manhattan Beach, as the city continues to shelter in after nearly a month of stay-at-home orders.

DigMB took a look at the complex debate within City Council in yesterday's story, Manhattan Beach Grapples With When/How To Reopen Public Spaces

That story mentioned a petition started by college student and Manhattan Beach resident Beck Cherry calling on local officials to re-open Manhattan Beach's public spaces, including its parks and the beach.

That petition has now garnered more than 2,700 signatures.

"We need our beaches open. Other areas have become more congested due to their closing. And the ocean shouldn’t be closed at all... Seems very pointless to take away a huge ocean and a place of mental clarity at a time like this!" wrote one commenter.

Response to Petition

Manhattan Beach Mayor Richard Montgomery told DigMB that he has been in touch with petition organizers. 

"The entire city council is aware and understands that our residents are anxious, frustrated and upset that we are unable to have access to our beach, the Strand and our parks," he said. 

Montgomery said he told petition organizers that the decision to close the beach was made by the L.A. County Department of Health - along with the decision to close the bike path and the county-owned beach parking lots.

"That decision was made to protect everyone from the coronavirus and stop it from spreading," said Montgomery. "Agree or not, that decision was the correct one at the time to protect our residents, our number one priority."

Furthermore, Montgomery shared three general points: 1) The social distancing guidelines and regulations are working as evidenced by the flattening of the infection curve and local hospital admissons; 2) The beaches will remain closed at least until May 15; and 3) The beach cities from El Segundo to Palos Verdes Estates are working closely with Los Angeles County Supervisor Janice Hahn and the L.A. County Beaches and Harbors on why, how and when the beaches, water, bike paths, esplanades, trails and parking lots will re-open.

In the meantime, a new petition started Friday - this one to keep the Strand and beaches closed "until deemed safe by the authorities that mandated the closure." The new petition garnered more than 280 signatures as of Saturday morning.

A Passionate Plea To Stay Home

Over on the Next Door social site, where residents have frequently complained about closed parks and beaches, one student's post lit a fire on Friday afternoon.

Mira Costa High School senior Max Orroth took to Next Door to plead with fellow residents to respect current restrictions. 

"My friends and I have seen numerous posts on Next Door from adults talking about how they want the beaches, Strand, and other public spaces to open. It’s disheartening to see so many people in my neighborhood think that this disease will just 'blow over' or that social distancing isn’t a good method to fight it. As one of many seniors who have had their last few months with their friends torn away from them, this hurts. It’s even more upsetting as many people in power have enforced these social distancing restrictions FOR A REASON, and people still think they can disregard these instructions, and potentially cause this disease to become more widespread. I hope all the selfish adults on this app see this post and see how not social distancing is selfish and inconsiderate to your community. Nobody is above this pandemic. stay safe."

Orroth's comments drew nearly widespread praise and thanks and received more than 400 "thanks."

"Max Orroth for president 2036!" wrote one commenter.

In an interview with DigMB, Orroth said that he spoke out because he kept seeing calls for the reopening of public spaces like the beach and the Strand.

"While I miss the beach just as much as everyone else, it’s important to keep on social distancing to flatten the curve of COVID-19," said Orroth. "My mom is an epidemiologist, so ways to prevent the spread of the virus have been a dinner table conversation topic for the past month or so. I wrote my post to provide another perspective I haven’t seen much of on an app like NextDoor - that of a student. But primarily, I shared my post in hopes to encourage people to socially distance themselves from others and ultimately fight the spread of the virus."

Orroth added that he was "sort of surprised" by the many positive comments that he had received. "I honestly thought my post could possibly offend some people, but it makes me happy to see so many members of my community on board with following the mandated guidelines."

What Are Your Needs?

In related news, the Alert South Bay Joint Information Center (Nixle) is running another survey on residents' communications needs. To take the survey, click https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/Z9ZD2NW.



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