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South Florida Parks Directors Stress Social Distancing Rules During First Days Of Reopening

Fabio Kern went paddle boarding at Crandon Park on Wednesday when some parks reopened across South Florida. He said he has been furloughed from his job and stuck at home for weeks.
Jenny Staletovich
Fabio Kern went paddle boarding at Crandon Park on Wednesday when some parks reopened across South Florida. He said he has been furloughed from his job and stuck at home for weeks.

Broward, Miami-Dade and Palm Beach counties are excluded from entering Florida’s first phase of reopening, which begins Monday.

They did take a step this week, though –  reopening parks, marinas, golf courses and other recreational places.

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Social distancing rules are being enforced. There can’t be gatherings of 10 or more people. Face coverings are required in most cases. Boats must remain 50 feet apart.

Some people welcomed this gradual reopening despite South Florida remaining the epicenter of the COVID-19 outbreak in the state.

“We’re staying at home as much as possible but when you do need to leave the house, just for mental health, there was no place to go. It’s been tough,” said Lenette Serlo, a mom of four kids in Davie.

Meanwhile, Ingrid M. González-Castillo tweeted WLRN that she didn’t want to rush into things.

“There’s plenty to do and stay entertained with indoors until this is long behind us,” she said.

On the South Florida Roundup, host Tom Hudson talked about this initial step toward reopening the region with two parks directors — Dan West for Broward County and Maria Nardi for Miami-Dade County.

Here’s an excerpt of their conversation:

TOM HUDSON: What's the enforcement like in Miami-Dade County?

MARIA NARDI: Miami-Dade Police Department partnered with us. We've been working together as well as hiring other staff to help us make sure that people follow the rules. One thing we want to make sure is that we address folks that are not abiding by the rules so that we don't ruin everything for the rest. Our mayor [Carlos Gimenez] has been very clear: zero tolerance for folks that don't abide by the rules.

Does that zero-tolerance mean a ticket, meaning that folks would be warned once or twice? Would they be escorted out of a park if they won't put a mask on yet when they're ordered to?

NARDI: Correct. This constitutes a violation. They will be ticketed violators and will be asked to leave the park. We want to make sure that is something that people understand, that there is zero tolerance for that.

DAN WEST: We've been working closely with the Broward Sheriff's Office and obviously all the other law enforcement agencies, including municipalities. I don't believe, at least at this point, that we don't have the full authority, plus the ability to do all the things to enforce the emergency orders. We have park rangers and park greeters, just like Miami-Dade, and certainly not withstanding we have the public that have over the last month learned a lot of lessons on social distancing.

On the the very first day, we had a steady stream of visitors, and it seemed like most people were very appreciative of having the access. My word on this is that if we take it slow, and see where we're at in a week or two weeks, we can if we need to implement additional measures, we will. This weekend will be a good test to see where we're at.

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Alexander Gonzalez is a recent graduate of the University of Miami. He majored in English and was the the editor-in-chief of The Miami Hurricane newspaper from 2014-15. He was WLRN's digital intern during summer 2015. He subscribes to too many podcasts and can't get away from covering the arts in Miami.