Beginning Friday, May 1, most of Tybee's beach and beach access will be open to the public, effectively bringing to an end a contentious struggle between City of Tybee officials and the Governor's office over who gets to go on the beach during the pandemic — and who can keep them off.
Some estimate that as many as 10,000 people could visit Tybee this weekend, after weeks of pent-up demand due to the COVID-19 lockdown.
Restrictions on new check-ins at Short Term Vacation Rentals/Airbnbs will also be lifted, on state order.
Complicating matters is this morning's decision by the state Dept. of Natural Resources to extend the "recreation only" order through May 6, meaning that if the shelter-in-place order expires Thursday night, as is widely expected, you can still only go to the beach for exercise — no umbrellas, tents, chairs, or coolers will be allowed for at least another week.
The large parking lot known as the Strand lot, from 16th to 17th Street, will reopen. "The southern part of this lot from 17th to 18th will remain closed to serve as the staging area for our dune vegetation project. Please remember to stay off the dunes," the City of Tybee says.
However, the North Beach lot will be closed until further notice.
Many crossovers to the beach will be open, after weeks of widespread disregard for them by many people drawn to the beach due to the Governor reopening it for recreational purposes over the wishes of the local Council.
Open crossovers include:
Gulick Street Vehicle Entrance (The wooden crossover will remain closed)
North Beach Center Street
The 14th Street crossover is under construction and remains closed.
The northern-most crossover at North Beach remains closed due to Marine Science Center construction.
Alley 3: Parking and access open
Fishing Pier: Pier and restroom closed
Public Restrooms: Beginning immediately, all public restrooms are open except for the small bathroom at the fishing pier.
No Smoking Ban: Tybee Island’s new smoking ban on the beach goes into effect May 1. No smoking is allowed between 14th Street and 16th Street.
Governor Brian Kemp issued the controversial order on April 3 that reopened the beach to the public, after the City of Tybee had already shut it down, installing wooden barriers and closing parking lots.
That executive order, like most Kemp has issued during the pandemic, specifically overruled the rights of local governments to either increase or reduce restrictions as mandated by the state.
Kemp's public health state of emergency is in effect at least until May 13, effectively meaning local governments are powerless until then, or until the order is lifted if Kemp extends it.