Sunbathing, lounging now allowed at Ventura County beaches

Residents are again able to sprawl out and soak up some rays in Ventura County as officials further ease restrictions that had allowed only active recreation in parks and along the shore in the midst of the coronavirus outbreak.

The county’s decision to permit passive use follows similar action taken in the coastal cities of Ventura, Oxnard and Port Hueneme, officials said, and represents a further unlocking of California’s cherished coastline.

Previously, many beaches and parks had been open only for active physical use, such as jogging, swimming, surfing or walking — with no lounging allowed.

“Now, open space guidelines at all parks and beaches throughout the area will share a common education message and encourage the same guidelines to be followed,” Ventura Mayor Matt LaVere said in a statement Wednesday.

Ventura residents can access the city’s beaches, pier, promenade and parks as long as they keep moving and practice physical distancing.


Officials emphasized, though, that residents must still practice social distancing and maintain at least a six-foot buffer between themselves and people they do not live with.

“Our ability to provide increased access to our beaches and parks is a direct result of Ventura County residents’ ability to practice social distancing guidelines and flatten the curve,” Ventura County Harbor Department Director Mark Sandoval said in a statement Thursday morning. “We are appreciative of everyone’s patience and need them to continue to be safe.”

As of Wednesday evening, Ventura County had confirmed 1,038 total cases of COVID-19 — with 771 patients having already recovered. The county’s coronavirus-linked death toll stands at 32, and 22 other people are hospitalized, 12 of them in intensive care.

“The gradual reopening of city parks and beaches is another positive step forward as we work together to reopen gradually, cautiously and successfully with community members, businesses and government agencies,” Ventura City Manager Alex McIntyre said in a statement.

The city will allow passive use at its beaches and parks starting Friday.

The recent moves don’t mean anything goes on beaches or in parks, however. Residents are still barred from gathering with people from outside their households, and group sports remain off-limits.

Law enforcement will continue patrolling the shore to educate residents on the importance of maintaining a safe social distance, county officials said.

Should a park or beach become overwhelmed with visitors, the Ventura Police Department may order that area closed, according to the city.

Such a move wouldn’t be unprecedented in the region. The county stepped in and temporarily closed Foster Park earlier this month in response to reports of crowding and illegal parking.

At least two popular areas in Southern California are closing amid increased crowds while stay-at-home orders continue to be relaxed.

Other agencies have had to take similar steps. The popular Santa Paula Canyon and Punch Bowls Trail in Ojai Valley are among the areas that have had to close because of crowds and trash.