Newport Beach plans more weekend boardwalk closures on Balboa Peninsula

Newport Beach police ensured visitors knew about last weekend's closure of the Balboa Peninsula boardwalk, but they didn't write any tickets.
(Courtesy of Newport Beach Police Department)

Newport Beach’s oceanfront boardwalk closure came and went over the weekend with good cooperation from the public, according to city officials, who said more closures are coming.

The city plans to close its boardwalk on the Balboa Peninsula every weekend in April, or until Gov. Gavin Newsom relaxes California’s social distancing guidelines that are intended to stem the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus.

The closures will last approximately from Friday afternoon to Monday morning. Specific hours weren’t provided.

Newport Beach police officers did not write any citations connected to the boardwalk and other stay-at-home restrictions and chose to go with an educational approach instead, according to Police Department spokeswoman Heather Rangel.

“People were very compliant over the weekend,” she said.

Newport Beach announced last week that it would close the ocean-facing boardwalk and the city’s beach parking lots and two ocean piers, restrict movement on Balboa Island’s wraparound walkway to one way and close the southbound Jamboree Road through lane at Bayside Drive to help reduce the island’s traffic congestion.

Except for the peninsula boardwalk, the restrictions are in place until further notice.

The beaches themselves remain open.

People on Balboa Island's wraparound walkway Saturday morning obey the new one-way restriction, which is in place until further notice.
(Susan Hoffman)

“The closure of the beach parking lots had a major impact on crowd reduction throughout the city, and the addition of a weekend closure of the oceanfront boardwalk kept the peninsula very quiet this weekend,” the city said in a statement Monday. “Pedestrian and vehicle traffic on Balboa Island was very light, and walkers seemed to be adhering to the ‘one way’ signs on the Bay Front walkway.”

City officials also closed the park-like overlooks in Corona del Mar after noting some crowding there over the weekend. Inspiration Point, a popular place to watch the sunset at Ocean Boulevard and Orchid Avenue, and Lookout Point, at Ocean and Heliotrope Avenue, were blocked off Sunday morning.

Lifeguard Battalion Chief Brent Jacobsen said Saturday drew about 18,500 beach-goers citywide; Sunday about 10,000. Small family groups were spread out, and a cool afternoon breeze helped keep attendance down Sunday, he said.

A "wrong way" sign on North Bay Front on Balboa Island last weekend notifies people of the one-way restriction on the island's wraparound walkway.
(Susan Hoffman)

Lifeguards spoke to 625 people Friday through Sunday about social distancing on the beach, Jacobsen said.

The turnout was a fraction of that of the previous weekend, when visitors eager for relief from directives to stay home created crowds that frustrated some local residents and members of the City Council. By lifeguards’ estimates, 50,000 people hit the beach March 21 and about 25,000 on March 22.

“Today the beach is very quiet,” Jacobsen said Monday. “The boardwalk is now open with very little traffic.”

Councilwoman Diane Dixon, who represents the Balboa Peninsula, said Newport’s shore remains an attractive destination but she saw nothing concerning last weekend.

Beach visitors kept proper distance, and she heard no dissatisfaction with the new restrictions, Dixon said.

“People cannot treat this casually,” she said. “Respect these rules that are set to keep us healthy and safe.”

The city also has closed public libraries, community centers, playgrounds, fitness equipment, the dog park, sports courts and fields and vehicle access to Back Bay Drive, a scenic loop popular among motorists, bicyclists and pedestrians. Parks otherwise remain open.

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