The popular Coastal Rail Trail and the seaside walking path along Highway 101 reopened but with added signage and safety measures that were meant to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus that has taken the life of 100 people in San Diego County and about 49,000 people nationally.
"Efforts to flatten the curve are proving to be effective and the number of Encinitas cases have remained at 34 since April 11," the city said in a statement announcing the reopenings. “We strongly encourage you to exercise in your own neighborhood – your local trees and flowers might just be as pretty as the ocean!”
Encinitas city crews placed banners along both routes Friday morning advising people of social distancing rules:
- Maintain 6 ft. distance
- Facial coverings strongly recommended
- Keep Moving
- Travel on the right, pass on the left
- No gathering
- Do not use if sick
As soon as crews lifted barricades in Encinitas, walkers, joggers, and bicyclists took advantage of the cooler morning temperatures.
“I just came down and went for a stroll and it is a reprieve and feels better. I understand why they had to close it. it got really crowded with folks coming in but yeah...better. I guess after restrictions there’s freedom,” Julie Jackson, Encinitas said.
While the San Diego County Public Health Order did not close the beaches and trails itself, it said parking lots must be closed and social distancing rules must be followed. If any city felt they could not enforce the protocols, the areas should be closed.
The City of Encinitas decided at their April 15 city council meeting to close the trails because of overcrowding, which caused people to ignore the established social distancing rules.
“I was real happy that I could come down here and walk but I understood why they didn’t [allow it] because there were a lot of people who are not practicing social distancing and they were being idiotic about it," said Solana Beach resident Barry Francke. "They were gathering together, stopping not moving, and not wearing a mask."
The closures led to community outrage and a protest Sunday, which drew hundreds.
The protest was criticized because of the large gathering and the lack of distancing and facial coverings. However, no one was cited by the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department.
The following week, the county of San Diego shared measures that cities could take to begin to reopen some of their public trails, parks and beaches. Cities were urged to develop their own plans that can be presented to the county and put in place once some requirements to the public health order are lessened.
The county said in order to reopen, cities must enforce that residents only participate in passive recreation, must keep their parking lots and playgrounds closed and must ensure social distancing.
While the county did not make any changes to the public health order, the move was seen as the county's first step towards gradual reopening.