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Ending confusion, city says Tampa’s beaches open at 2 p.m.

Mayor Jane Castor said Friday that the city’s beaches would be reopening. Monday, her office initially said they weren’t. And then they were.
Beach goers are seen along Ben T. Davis Beach Monday in Tampa. There was confusion on whether or not Tampa would open its beaches Monday.
Beach goers are seen along Ben T. Davis Beach Monday in Tampa. There was confusion on whether or not Tampa would open its beaches Monday. [ CHRIS URSO | Times ]
Published May 4, 2020
Updated May 5, 2020

TAMPA — Tampa isn’t known for its beaches. But as the state started reopening Monday, the status of the city’s four beaches was a puzzle.

Open or closed? The city didn’t have a clear answer until nearly 1 p.m.

After a morning of confusion, a city news release announced the city’s four beaches would open at 2 p.m.

That mostly aligns with what Mayor Jane Castor told a Facebook Live audience Friday afternoon.

“We are also opening our beaches. And we will have code enforcement and law enforcement monitoring to make sure we don’t have large crowd gatherings there," Castor said in her appearance, watched by hundreds and reported by the Tampa Bay Times.

Related: Tampa begins to open its parks and beaches

But Monday morning, Castor spokeswoman Ashley Bauman said the beaches remained closed. She pointed to a Friday news release which detailed the partial park reopening but didn’t mention beaches.

When asked to explain Castor’s comments, Bauman said she would seek clarification.

Bauman said she was unaware of anyone being turned away from the beaches at Ben T. Davis, Picnic Island, Davis Islands and Cypress Point.

“We generally don’t have beaches where people go first thing in the morning,” Bauman said.

The city sent out a release three hours later announcing the 2 p.m beach openings.

The confusion over Tampa’s beaches is the latest chapter in Castor’s responses to whether the city’s open spaces should be reopened in the face of a pandemic.

Last Wednesday, she told the Times that the parks and beaches would remain closed to prevent large crowds gathering. Castor said she saw reopening them as a “Phase 2” step, referring to federal guidelines outlining how communities should proceed to operate safely in gradual steps.

Related: Castor says parks, beaches will remain closed for now

But two days later she reversed that position in her FaceBook Live appearance.

Bauman said the mayor had been concerned about large crowds gathering on Bayshore Boulevard and the Riverwalk, trails that had remained open during the crisis. She had also read scientific data about the lower outdoor transmission rates of coronavirus, Bauman said in explaining the mayor’s change of heart.

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