‘Outside shouldn’t be off limits’: Beach-goers react to decision to close beaches, parks
WRIGHTSVILLE BEACH, NC (WWAY) — Wrightsville Beach Police announced the beach strand, as well as town parks, would be closed until March 31 on Friday morning to prevent the spread of coronavirus.
Beach-goers were not happy when they heard the news.
“Don’t gather in groups of 10, don’t go to bars,” Wrightsville Beach Resident Ryan Hipp said. “Do what everybody’s telling you to do, but outside shouldn’t be off limits to anybody.”
Hundreds of people were on the beach, enjoying the weather, when a police officer came by on an ATV telling them to gather their things and leave the beach.
“Obviously the coronavirus is terrible, but I think it’s terrible they’re closing down the beaches,” Hipp said. “They’re closing down the ocean to surfers. At this time, it’s probably the healthiest thing to do is get outside.”
Hipp says he understands why the precautions are important, but he’s frustrated he can’t even go outside to de-stress.
“If they want me to sit inside until March 31, that’s probably not too healthy. Mentally or physically,” he said.
Two students from Elon University decided to come to the beach to relax for the day, only to have their plans interrupted not long after arriving.
“I’m bummed out. The precautions are good, but I don’t know,” Hanna Biebel said. “Now we’re really stuck inside for like three weeks I guess.”
They say everyone was doing a good job of social distancing.
“I think if you practice the social distancing while on the beach, which a lot of people were doing,” Ashley Laplaca said. “No one is on top of each other, you’re just out enjoying nature. Just out trying to live your life.”
“And get through all of this mess. It sucks,” Biebel added.
Plenty of surfers were in the water as well.
“We were just in the water and all of a sudden we hear sirens and they’re yelling at us to get out of the water,” Addison Windham said.
The locals say they had seen other states closing their beaches, but they didn’t think it would happen here.
“We really didn’t expect it. We were joking about it and all the sudden they’re just here,” Windham said.
“And there’s nothing you can do once they’re actually here because you’re not gonna just sit out there while the cops are sitting there,” Elijah Ellwood added. “Eventually, they’re going to get you out of the water. You have to come out eventually.”
Two other Elon University whose classes were moved online decided to come to the beach to try and relax while adjusting to their new normal.
“I know we’re supposed to be practicing social distancing and all but,” Yates May said. “We figured nobody would be on the beach and so that’s why we came in the first place,” Makayla Street added.
They say they wanted to make the best of a not-so-great situation.
“If we’re going to be quarantined, we might as well be quarantined at the beach,” they said in unison.
But they say they plan to take precautions to protect themselves and those who are at high risk.
“Just because it’s not affecting our age as much as it is older people, doesn’t mean we shouldn’t take it seriously because they’re in trouble too,” Street said. “Just because we’re not in trouble doesn’t mean other people aren’t.”
One woman emphasized the importance of the beach to some people.
“I was walking down the South End, I noticed a young girl with her father. She had a bald head. I saw her mother standing on the shore watching with her dog,” Lori Ann Foister said.
Foister says she approached the mother, asking if she would share her daughter’s story.
“With tears, she told me her 13 year old daughter wanted to go swimming in the ocean today. Although it was cold, they brought her and her dad went with her.”
The 13-year-old had another round of chemo coming soon.
Foister is a mother of 4. Touched by the story, she asked them if she could pray for them.
“Social distancing kept me from holding this dear mother,” she said. but it also brought me to the beach today so I could meet this mom and etch her in my heart and prayers.”
New Hanover County Commissioner Woody White spoke out against the decision.
In a tweet he said, “Limiting gatherings is reasonable. But closing the beach is not.”
For the latest on closings and restrictions, click here.