BOCA RATON, Fla. – Larisa Zhukova perhaps sums up the feeling best: “To take beaches away from a Floridian is like to cut a part of their body, because we are all here because of that.”
Zhukova, who moved to Boca Raton from Russia, was enjoying the beach in Boca on Tuesday. Boca and Delray Beach, in Palm Beach County, reopened their beaches this week, while beaches further south in Broward and Miami-Dade counties remain closed because of the coronavirus pandemic.
The people soaking in their return to the sand say it has been a long time coming.
The crash of water against the shore, under a beaming sun, served as somewhat of an invitation to Zhukova and her son Mickhail Guseyenov, who both moved here from Russia.
“We came here for the warm Florida beaches, and we were getting pretty depressed because we couldn’t get to the one place that we were most excited to be here for, and its the beach behind me,” Guseyenov said.
Boca Raton was among the first communities to shut down its beaches amid the COVID-19 outbreak.
For two months, the sand and surf had been roped off — until city leaders this week eased restrictions, allowing people to swim and sunbathe.
“We found a really good spot, really secluded from everyone else, and that was literally one of the biggest concerns for us,” said beachgoer Claude Karebin.
Beachgoers must still abide by social distancing guidelines, and a notice warns people that entering comes at their own risk. That’s partly for COVID-19 but also because no lifeguards are on duty.
The other catch is parking. You can’t park at the actual beach; you have to find streetside parking, and for some people that could mean a half-mile or mile-long walk.
Still, the word is now out, which creates the possibility that out-of-towners could flood newly opened beach.
“Yeah we may have a couple of people who come from Miami-Dade or Broward to come here, but we are very excited to have them here, because I know this feeling of just being able to come to the beach to enjoy yourself,” Guseynov said.
Broward County has discussed possibly reopening its beaches May 26, the day after Memorial Day, but that hasn’t been finalized. Miami-Dade has said that beaches are not part of this phase of its reopening plan.