Call to close Baldwin beaches intensifies

Baldwin County

GULF SHORES, Ala. (WKRG) — The beaches have been pretty packed all week. Accommodations at 70 percent capacity. Many see this as a ticking time bomb for a major coronavirus outbreak.

They come from everywhere, each year to enjoy Alabama’s beautiful beaches but where some see spring breakers, others see the potential for a coronavirus outbreak.

“Why are they still here?” Is the question head of Orange Beach and Gulf Shores Tourism Herb Malone hears often. His answer, “Individual choice and individual freedom.”

Large groups gathering at Perdido Pass in Orange Beach this week have intensified the call to shut down the beaches.

“They’ve been reviewing this. We’ve been reviewing this for days,” says Baldwin County Sheriff Hoss Mack.

In Orange Beach, it’s the Governor’s decision. The beaches are state property and the city of Orange Beach has no authority to close them. In Gulf Shores, the city has control over the public beach. The county controls Fort Morgan. But, the beach behind condo’s and beach houses in all the coastal communities are considered private property so, it’s not as easy as it may seem.

“I wouldn’t want to be in their shoes,” says Malone. “Big decisions to make whether in the city halls of Orange Beach or Gulf Shores or the Baldwin County Commission. All these elected people have a lot of weight on their shoulders right now.”

If the order came down to close the beaches in Baldwin County, it wouldn’t happen all at once. “We would give a notice, we would say by this order this has happened and we would ask for self-compliance, civility. We would try to handle it that way first.”

The Governor’s office is considering whether or not to close the beaches. In the meantime, law enforcement has beefed up efforts to break up large crowds to 25 or less.

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