SANTA CRUZ (KPIX) — Daytime curfews for beaches lifted Monday evening in Santa Cruz after increased enforcement to keep crowds away during the Labor Day weekend.
“Living here in Santa Cruz, I understand you want to keep the influx of people to a minimum, because when it gets busy here on a holiday weekend it gets crazy,” said Santa Cruz resident Quinn McLaughlin.
McLaughin and his family waited until 5 p.m., the magic hour when Main and Cowell Beaches reopened in the last stretch of the holiday weekend. The curfews and closures of some parking lots were caused over concerns of COVID-19.
Earlier on the final day of the Labor Day extended weekend, beach closures in Santa Cruz County were enforced with a steady and persistent law-enforcement presence at city, county and state beaches.
Cowell Beach in the city of Santa Cruz was patrolled by firefighter-lifeguards and police officers on ATVs. One officer spent the day intercepting new visitors who were seen carrying coolers and folding chairs onto the sand.
The health order did not allow congregating in large groups or lounging on the sand — only water sports, such active swimming, surfing or kayaking were allowed. Officers were seen warning beachgoers that wading — even standing — at the edge of the surf was not allowed.
“It’s not really fair and I don’t have the patience to be here,” one father told KPIX.
The county has experienced an increase in confirmed cases.
“During a holiday, it’s packed, it’s always packed,” said Santa Cruz resident Laina Jacobs. “It’s unfortunate people aren’t wearing masks when they’re supposed to, people are having big playdates.”
Despite the signs to stay away, deputies and police found beachgoers anyway, but leaned toward education rather than enforcement.
“Our community has just been through so much so I don’t think we want anymore visitors,” said Remy Paille. “So if anything it just hopefully helps people stay away.”
At Natural Bridges State Beach, both the main parking lot and adjacent street parking were closed, forcing visitors to park in surrounding neighborhoods and make the quarter-mile trek to the strand.
A lifeguard kept watch to ensure only water activities took place. Rangers were on hand to remind visitors they could only be on the sand while they entered or exited the water.
At least three Santa Cruz County deputies were assigned to cover the northern region of the county, which includes Davenport Beach. Several families were surprised to see that a deputy had scrambled down the steep rocky cliff then hiked a quarter-mile along a trail to greet them on the sand to remind them: no lounging permitted.
Corina Perez was allowed to stay but was told to get her kids back in the water after lunch.
“They (the kids) were so scared right now but we’re actually, now we’re good,” Perez said.
Michelle and Justin Beard did not check the status of the openings and had driven two hours from Patterson to Santa Cruz County only to find many parking lots closed.
“We don’t have (a plan), we’re just gonna kind of go with the flow. I assume everything’s closed around here. So try and take a few quick pictures before we get in trouble and then move on and see what else we can find,” Michelle said.