Manatee County reopens beaches; parking time limits, social distancing rules in place

On Thursday, Manatee County officials announced that Manatee County residents may park and visit public beaches for two hours a day as long as they practice social distancing. 

They also announced plans to manage crowds amidst several ongoing construction projects on Anna Maria ahead of public beaches opening on Monday. 
"There are multiple construction projects ongoing at public beaches, but we're doing our best to open other areas for parking while these parking spots are unavailable," said Beach Patrol Chief Joe Westerman. "We want people to come and enjoy themselves at our life-guarded beaches, but they need to remember social distancing guidelines and they should be respectful of other people who want to visit the beach." 

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Public parking spots at Manatee County's three public beaches will be open from 10 a.m. - 9 p.m., seven days a week beginning Monday, May 4. 

There will be approximately 400 parking spots at Coquina Beach, 200 at Cortez Beach and space for 250 vehicles at Manatee Beach. Drivers will be allowed an available space on a first-come, first-served basis. 

Beachgoers will have two hours of free parking each day to enjoy the beach with minimal restrictions. The limit will allow visitors to enjoy the sun, sand and water for a reasonable amount of time while allowing others to visit the beach throughout the day. 

Upon arrival, drivers will be given a two-hour parking pass and a reminder to remain a safe distance from others. Vehicles parked beyond the two-hour time limit will be subject to a parking citation and fine. 

County officials said typical beach activities are allowed, but as always, animals, alcohol, fires, glass bottles or vehicles are not allowed on county beaches anytime. Other beach gear is allowed and sunscreen is encouraged, especially for anyone who hasn't been in the sun for several weeks. 

County officials remind beachgoers that sea turtle nesting season begins May 1 and it's against the law to touch or disturb nesting sea turtles, hatchlings, or their nests.