Ga. governor tells Tybee leaders to comply with order; beach open for exercise

A plywood sign reading "Beach Closed" bars any visitors from accessing Tybee's sands and waters.
A plywood sign reading "Beach Closed" bars any visitors from accessing Tybee's sands and waters.(source: WTOC)
Updated: Apr. 3, 2020 at 11:20 PM EDT
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TYBEE ISLAND, Ga. (WTOC) - Georgia Governor Brian Kemp’s “shelter in place” order will take effect at 6 p.m. on Friday. However, aspects of it are confusing to many people. One of those areas is the beaches.

Are they now back open?

Tybee Island City Manager Shawn Gillen said there's a lot of uncertainty right now in regard to the governor's order.

Just two weeks ago, Tybee Mayor Shirley Sessions signed an emergency directive to close the beach.

The governor's office is asking Tybee Island leaders to comply with a new executive order that allows beaches to re-open. The mayor sent a letter to the governor asking him to reverse course and close the beaches.

Mayor Shirley Sessions says the city doesn’t have the resources to re-open the beach and keep people safe.

The governor’s office says state law enforcement will be in place to patrol the beaches and parking lots. They will also enforce social distancing requirements.

The Georgia Department of Natural Resources now has some new guidelines for beaches. DNR says it prohibits the use of chairs, tents and umbrellas on the beach.

Those guidelines take effect with the governor's order. You are only allowed to exercise on the beach.

Gillen says the mayor is talking with a state representative, state senator and U.S. congressman.

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The signs and barricades are still present, a reflection of what City of Tybee officials had hoped would happen.

“We made a decision to wait until Monday, because we kept thinking at the last minute that we would hear from the governor that we could leave our beaches closed," said Mayor Shirley Sessions.

Tybee’s Mayor, Shirley Sessions, said she believes the shelter in place order is confusing, asking people to stay home, but opening beaches. She expressed her disappointment with the decision.

“It’s very frustrating to have made the choice. It was a hard choice. It was not a popular choice, but the council was unanimous.”

Tybee was among the first to close its beaches. Now they are concerned that people from neighboring states like South Carolina may come to their beaches since Hilton Head’s are closed.

Sessions said it’s not just a health concern, it’s a safety issue.

“We don’t have life guards on our beaches yet, and if people decide to go into the ocean and there’s an accident, something really tragic, Tybee is going to be in a very bad position, because we cannot, we can’t do it all.”

With just two and a half miles of beaches, she said part of the reason they closed in the first place was because it was difficult to social distance in a relatively small stretch of space.

Sessions added she hopes people use their judgement and come to Tybee when it is safe to do so.

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