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Manhattan Beach To Re-Open Polliwog Park on Trial Basis

Apr 22, 2020 02:43PM ● By Jeanne Fratello

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

The Manhattan Beach City Council has voted to re-open parts of Polliwog Park on a trial basis, with certain restrictions, beginning on Saturday, April 25.

The vote was 3-2 in favor of the motion, with Mayor Richard Montgomery and council members Steve Napolitano and Suzanne Hadley in favor. Council members Nancy Hersman and Hildy Stern were the "no" votes.

Meanwhile, a motion to re-open Bruce's Beach at the same time failed on a vote of 2-3, with Napolitano and Hadley in favor and Montgomery, Hersman, and Stern opposed.

Face Coverings Required, Opening Limited

The Polliwog Park re-opening was approved with the requirement that individuals wear masks or face coverings at the park. Additionally, the following conditions will apply:

  1. The re-opening only applies to Polliwog Park, on a trial basis;
  2. The reopening is limited to green space only (no dog runs, picnic areas, etc.);
  3. There will be barriers and flexible fencing placed around play equipment;
  4. Sports fields will remain closed;
  5. There will be staff stationed in the park to continue to remind people to maintain social distancing;
  6. The restrooms will remain closed.

Disagreement About Opening

City council members disagreed on the idea of re-opening, along familiar lines as reflected in earlier city council debates. (See Manhattan Beach Grapples With When/How To Reopen Public Spaces and Re-Opening Debate Rages On In Manhattan Beach.)

One ongoing issue has been the fact that other jurisdictions, including Hermosa Beach, have parks open. 

"I haven’t seen anything to show that having these parks open has meant a large increase [of cases] in any of these communities," said Napolitano.

Furthermore, Napolitano added, there was inconsistency across Manhattan Beach, given that many exercisers have been crowding together on the Greenbelt and Ocean Drive without wearing masks. "Is it worse to have Ocean Drive and the Greenbelt [open] without requiring masks, or is it safer to have a couple of parks open where masks have to be worn? I'd go with the latter," he said.

"Let people exercise; let people choose what they want to do," added Hadley. "If folks are not comfortable in those places now [the Greenbelt, Ocean Drive, or Polliwog], they should not go."

Montgomery said that his support for re-opening the part was conditional on two things: one, that it would be a trial and if it doesn’t work the city closes it back up; and two, that it be just this one park first. "I don’t want to double burden our staff - we’re not there yet. Let’s see if we can do one first," he said.

However, Hersman and Stern disagreed and called for caution.

"We should be looking at the science and the data, not the whims of residents." said Hersman. "Public health experts are saying, stay the course, let’s just keep hunkering down until we get a handle on this...We need to continue until the people who are really looking at this - the scientists and the doctors - tell us that it’s OK to back off."

Stern noted that re-opening would place additional burdens on an already stretched-to-the-limits police department. "I walk out my front door and I look at the beautiful sky and wonderful weather - I walk out my driveway and I get my exercise - and I’m not taxing my police department when I do that."

Stern added that in places like Ocean Drive and the Greenbelt, people are moving constantly, whereas at a park they are more likely to stay in one space. And while masks are important, they are not a substitute for social distancing - and people have shown that they are not respecting social distancing, she said.
"We can’t take the risk that we start this and we have that rebound that comes back harder and fiercer and threatens all of us even more," said Stern. "This is a new situation we have where we protect each other. Opening this park is not protecting each other."

Bruce's Beach Idea Rejected

The proposal of re-opening Bruce's Beach for this weekend was rejected on a 2-3 vote, with Montgomery joining Hersman and Stern in voting "no."

Manhattan Beach Police Chief Derrick Abell warned that opening an additional park would place additional burdens on the police department, and could potentially hinder the department's ability to ensure public safety. 

"With the rollout we talked about Polliwog. Anything more than that is pushing the envelope," Abell said. "Right now with the workforce and the number of people [involved], we’re asking for trouble if we open up anything else."

The city council declined to take action on the idea of making face coverings mandatory for anyone going outside in public. Nevertheless, the city continues to strongly encourage use of masks or face coverings.

Editor's Note: If you still need a face covering and want to support local businesses, DigMB has updated and refreshed its list of Manhattan Beach and South Bay merchants selling masks or face coverings.

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