The beaches are open, and crowded

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The beaches in Orange Beach, Gulf Shores and Fort Morgan opened last week to excited beach goers. Officials said extra patrols and careful planning have made for a smooth transition despite enormous crowds.

Lt. Melvin Shepard, Gulf Shores Beach safety officer said, “The lifeguard staff reported nearly 100,000 people on the beaches since they re-opened. There have been no issues to report.”

Gulf Shores and Orange Beach have police officers that regularly patrol the beaches but have added additional officers during peak times.

“We have officers assigned to work on the beach every day of the week.  Based on the current situation, we have assigned additional officers to the beach during peak hours for the next few weeks, at least,” said Gulf Shores Command Sergeant Jason Woodruff.

“This is unique situation,” he said. “Our local businesses and residents are struggling.  We want to be a part of the solution.  Based on what we have seen since Thursday, I think the beach is taken care of. Gulf Shores Police Department is ready for whatever the summer brings” said Woodruff.

Orange Beach has also increased patrols to levels usually seen during spring break weeks.

City Administrator Ken Grimes said, “Patrols on the beaches are very visible and interacting with the citizens to educate and encourage the distancing guidelines.”

The waterways are being patrolled by ALEA, police and coastal resources.

“We have all vessels operating on busy peak days including three marine boats for Orange Beach Police Department, two vessels for Orange Beach Fire Department and many personal watercrafts including both Orange Beach Police Department officers and Orange Beach Fire Department Lifeguards,” Grimes said. “Uniformed officers are also present on the islands during peak times to keep distancing underway. People are being respectful, and we ask boaters to try and keep 25 feet apart,” Grimes said. 

The tight quarters around Alabama Point East have been temporarily closed to help with social distancing.

“We ask people to avoid the area of Alabama Point East near the bridge during this time. There are plenty of other places to gather but that area is just too tight and problematic, so we worked with the state to get permission to close it for this period,” Grimes said.

“We want the public to be able to come and enjoy themselves. We know that we are a popular vacation destination and it is our duty to provide a safe environment. The city puts a lot of resources in place (employees and equipment) in order to manage our beaches and waterways before, during and after COVID-19 and we will continue to work to provide a grade-A destination for locals and for people traveling to visit,” Lesinger said.