South Walton beaches closed and being monitored

WALTON COUNTY, Fla. (WJHG/WECP) - During a time of year when normally thousands of people flock to South Walton’s beaches, blockades are telling people to stay away.

South Walton public beaches are closed, after commissioners approved an emergency ordinance. (WJHG/WECP)

Commissioners decided Thursday to close all public beaches after the first non-Florida resident tested positive for COVID-19 in Walton County.

"Of course I'm disappointed, I'm more disappointed for all the people who made a trip just to be on the beach," said visitor Don Taylor.

Visitors are being met by beach ambassadors, telling them the beaches are closed amid concerns over the coronavirus.

"We are speaking to anyone who has come to look at our beautiful waters, who can't get in our sand, and just answer any questions that they have," said beach ambassador Laurie Reichenbach.

The Walton County Sheriff's Office is also making sure people are aware of the new rules.

"At the end of the day we're going to do everything we can to educate you and get you in compliance, but if your end all be all is that you're just not going to do it, then you're forcing our hand. [And] yeah absolutely, could that end up in someone's arrest? Yeah it could, but let's be pragmatic, we're trying to keep people out of jail," said Michael Adkinson, Walton County Sheriff.

While they can't go on the beaches, some visitors are making the best of the situation.

"Fortunately the area has a lot of trails through all the national and state forests that are great, so I'll just go somewhere else," said Taylor.

The ordinance will last for 30 days, but will be re-evaluated as the situation changes.

The emergency ordinance does not apply to private beaches. Those property owners can still use their beach, and rent it out to visitors.

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