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Pasco residents enjoy the beaches, even when they’re closed

A barricade notifies the public that the Robert J. Strickland Memorial Beach Park in Hudson is closed because of the coronavirus pandemic. Several beach-goers said Tuesday they hadn't seen the sign. [C.T. BOWEN  |  Staff]
A barricade notifies the public that the Robert J. Strickland Memorial Beach Park in Hudson is closed because of the coronavirus pandemic. Several beach-goers said Tuesday they hadn't seen the sign. [C.T. BOWEN | Staff]

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HUDSON — They sunbathed, played in the sand, smoked a cigarette or sipped coffee. They also left plenty of space between themselves.

Tuesday was day four of the shutdown of Pasco County’s beaches due to the coronavirus pandemic. But with just a single barricade affixed with a “closed until further notice’’ sign, the sparse noon-time public didn’t know or didn’t care about the closure of Robert J. Strickland Memorial Beach Park in Hudson. About 20 people strolled the sand or sidewalk, ate to-go lunches under the shelter or set up lounge chairs in the shade.

One woman read James Patterson on her Kindle. Two women read the Bible while spread on a blanket and keeping an eye on two girls, 7 and 9, romping in the sand next to them. Two people worked the beach sand with a metal detector and shovel, seeking treasure in an era of economic uncertainty. Two others waded waist deep into the water.

Richard and Betty Latimer live in the Bear Creek neighborhood and said they come to the beach daily. If they don’t see a familiar face, they just sit in their mini-SUV facing the water for an hour or two. The breeze and the view keep bringing them back, said Richard, 75.

“Just the calmness, the tranquility. Watching the people watch their kids,’’ he said.

He and Betty, 69, both noted the beach-goers practiced social distancing, while the grocery store customers they’ve encountered do not.

“The real problem isn’t the beach,’’ he said.

A sparse crowd of noon-time beach-goers included two people working a metal detector and shovel and a couple who ventured waist deep into the water at Robert J. Strickland Memorial Beach Park in Hudson. The county closed its beaches March 20 due to the coronavirus pandemic. [C.T. BOWEN | Staff]

Gloria Swalgen, 71, is a veteran sunbather. Deeply tanned, she set up a recliner in the shade next to her packed lunch and a supply of disinfectant wipes.

“I’m ready,’’ she said.

She lives in Hernando Beach and usually gets her exercise at the YMCA in Spring Hill or visits Pine Island Beach Park in Weeki Wachee. Both are closed. She said she hadn’t noticed the barricade, which fronts a sidewalk entrance to the Hudson beach. The parking lot and restrooms are open, as are the two restaurants in close proximity selling take-out food.

“I don’t see any harm in just sitting here,’’ she said.

Others apparently shared that sentiment.

One senior couple exited their car and read aloud the “closed’’ sign.

Does that mean you can’t walk on it? the woman asked her companion.

They paused momentarily, then walked out to the water.

Dawn Moore, 61, of New Port Richey, worries about her daughter and her 11-year-old granddaughter. They are under quarantine in Italy where Moore’s son-in-law is stationed with the military.

She prayed at St. Michael the Archangel Catholic Church in Bayonet Point and came to the beach park for a respite from her concerns. She sat in the shade of a shelter and looked at the water.

“The beach,’’ she said, “always makes me feel peaceful.’’

• • •

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