Drive-on beach approaches in Ocean Shores were open Tuesday for the first time since they were ordered closed March 23 by Mayor Crystal Dingler. City workers were out Tuesday morning removing the barricades, following the unanimous vote by the Ocean Shores City Council on Monday night against ratifying the indefinite extension of the vehicle beach access closure.
That move prompted the Grays Harbor County Commission to schedule a special meeting at 4 p.m. Wednesday to consider the possibility of opening county beach access roads Thursday. In a letter to Ocean Shores businesses sent Tuesday, Dingler wrote that this was being pursued “so that Ocean Shores will not have a problem by having the only beaches approaches open on the coast next weekend.”
During the online City Council meeting, the mayor explained that she was trying to coordinate reopening beach access roads with reopening similar access roads in the county as well as coastal state parks and Damon Point, which is also under state jurisdiction.
“If Ocean Shores is the only one that opens up their beaches and gives access, it will be kind of a mess for us. We would have way too many people; that’s my opinion,” she said.
Earlier in the meeting, County Commissioner Vickie Raines called in to explain that the county was likely moving to open its access roads around May 18-20. Dingler asked that the City Council approve her order, and said she would proceed with the plan for vehicle access to all area beaches to reopen at the same time.
But most of the council members expressed concern that the influx of visitors Ocean Shores saw this past weekend created jams of vehicles parking at the closed vehicle access points, where people could still walk onto the beach.
Council member Eric Noble said, “Specifically because of what happened this weekend, I think (opening access roads is) less dangerous than having them park and walk.”
Kathryn Sprigg said she observed similar situations at all of the approaches and believed “it’s a heck of a lot more dangerous to have people parked at those entrances; for people to be walking past each other, trying to stay out of the road, than it is to just open the beaches.”
Also at the council meeting, the mayor’s order keeping hotels and other commercial lodging closed through May 18 was ratified by a 4-3 vote. Council also approved, 5-2, her order that made “strongly recommended” rather than mandatory, rules for businesses that included mandatory use of face masks for employees and customers alike.
The meeting also featured about 90 minutes of public comments that were emailed to and read aloud by City Clerk Sara Dawson. Almost all of them were on aspects of the COVID-19 situation.