PACIFIC COUNTY — The Pacific County Board of Commissioners, local mayors and Sheriff Robin Souvenir have approved a plan to reopen beach approaches seven days a week beginning Monday, May 18.
The vote to approve the reopening was held Friday, May 15 during the Pacific County Emergency Management Agency Council meeting. The decision comes nearly two months after the county's Public Health Officer, Dr. Steven Krager, ordered the beach approaches closed to deter visitors from the area.
The beach approach discussion was part of a larger planning meeting on how the county will reopen hospitality and lodging in coming months. More details on that, as well as the county's overall restart plan will be released early next week, officials said in the meeting.
The plan to change the public health order was made in collaboration with elected officials, public health officials and the Pacific County Emergency Operations Center. Pacific County Administrative Officer Kathy Spoor said the reopening meant it was even more important for people to observe social distancing and hygiene measures.
"If we're going to be successful and we don't have to back peddle on this we're going to need people to be mindful, and stay away with each other as best we can," Spoor said.
The governor's ban on non-essential interactions will still be in place until at least June 1, and even then it will be limited to areas near people's places of residence, said Katie Lindstrom, health department director. This reopening is meant more for locals than to encourage vacationing in the county.
Recreational visitors should be able to return to the area during phase three of reopening, which is expected to be near the end of June. In the meantime, Spoor pointed to the message sent out by Visit Ocean Shores Facebook page, which asked visitors to "prepare for your visit with kindness."
The City of Long Beach and the county intend to reopen beach approaches at the same time. Long Beach closed its three beach approaches on March 22. Mayor Jerry Phillips said at the time the closure was spurred by an influx of visitors. Pacific County followed suit, closing its seven beach approaches later that day.
Washington State Parks connected to ocean beaches will not reopen until phase two, unless directed to open by Gov. Jay Inslee’s office, said Anna Gill, Communications Director for the Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission.
Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife was coordinating with counties about reopening fishing in the outer coast Marine Areas 1 through 4, said Dan Chadwick, a captain with WDFW. There is no clear date on when that might happen, but the department is working toward restarting fishing.
There is also the possibility of a last razor clam dig before the season ends, which is something Pacific County officials would support. However, annual licenses expired earlier this spring, so new ones would be required.
Pacific County officials also said in the emergency council meeting they would not object to saltwater fishing reopening.
The approach closures made it difficult for vehicles to access the beach, though it did not stop people from walking on the beach. The order technically did not prohibit people driving on the beach, as much of the beach area is state highway and closure would have required an order from Gov. Jay Inslee's office.