PANAMA CITY BEACH — Gov. Ron DeSantis has allowed a phased reopening of businesses and public areas, including some state parks. Here is what’s happening in our area:
Effective May 4, Camp Helen State Park at 23937 Panama City Beach Parkway, opened for day use from 8 a.m. to sunset for active recreation only, such as walking, jogging, swimming and fishing. St. Andrews State Park, 4607 State Park Lane, opened for the same uses and hours on May 5.
Restrooms and trash cans are available, but all other park facilities are closed. Normal park fees apply. Visitors are expected to maintain safe social distances of at least 6 feet apart and limit group size to 10 people.
Econfina River State Park, Grayton Beach State Park trail access north of County 30A, and Torreya State Park are all open for day use from 8 a.m. to sunset; boat/kayak launch is available at Econfina and Torreya.
This is the first phase of re-opening, and the Department of Environmental Protection will be taking measures to ensure the safety of staff and the public, according to information provided by DEP. Visitors should expect limited hours, capacity and amenities. Phase one includes about 80 parks and trails throughout Florida.
Stores at Pier Park Mall, 600 Pier Park Drive, reopened May 4 with a comprehensive COVID-19 Exposure Control Policy designed to deliver an elevated set of safety standards at the property.
"The health, safety and well-being of the community we serve will always be our highest priority, and we have developed a thorough and detailed set of protocols highlighting the exceptional measures we’ve implemented for shoppers, retailers and employees as we reopen,” said Christopher Tilley, general manager. “We also recognize that individuals and families in our community are suffering significant hardship as a result of both COVID-19 and the economic shutdown, and we believe that reopening our property will not only help people get back to work during these challenging times, but also enable us to use our property to further support charitable initiatives."
The plan includes “enhanced sanitization” and disinfecting of high-traffic locations such as dining areas, restrooms, escalators, stairs, directories, trash bins and door knobs. Hand-sanitizing stations will be deployed throughout the property. Employee health screenings should ensure workers don’t work within 72 hours of exhibiting COVID-19 or flu-like symptoms.
Pier Park, which closed because of coronavirus concerns on March 19, has also joined forces with local non-profits to support initiatives aimed at assisting those in the community experiencing hardship as a result of COVID-19. These include a national initiative to host food banks, clothing donations, COVID-19 mobile testing and blood drives as part of an outreach to 1,300 health providers, government agencies and non-profits.
SHIPWRECK ISLAND IS READY
Shipwreck Island Water Park has a target opening date of May 23, according to recent social media posts, but that is contingent upon the state governor allowing amusement parks and similar venues to reopen.
Park management assures patrons that the park is ready whenever the state is.
A recent update on the park’s Facebook page included information that park staff has been involved in conference calls and webinars, and sharing ideas of best practices for reopening after the shutdown. Social distancing, handwashing and other COVID-19 safety rules will be in effect.
“We have developed a Best Practices Operational Plan that offers extensive safety and sanitation procedures,” the post said. “We have 15 acres of outside entertainment space, which we believe will make community distancing possible. Our plan is ready, our park is ready, and when local and state officials say it is safe to open, we’ll be ready.”
Meanwhile, dates for season pass sales were announced this week. Sale dates are May 20, 21, 22, and 23. Season passes will be $89 and come with $10 in free "splash cash" for use in the park.
For updates and other park information, visit ShipwreckIsland.com, call 850-234-3333, or follow Facebook.com/ShipwreckIsland.