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Lee County Commission approves limited opening of county parks

By Staff | Apr 21, 2020

The Lee County Board of County Commissioners agreed to open up 23 of its parks — not including beach parks or Lakes Park — for hiking, walking, jogging, and biking. Horseback riding trails, available at some parks, also will reopen to the public.

The opening of the trails will take effect Wednesday.

County Manager Roger Desjarlais said the county is acting based on talks with Lee Health and the Office of Gov. Ron DeSantis.

Dejarlais said the county would like to start talking about opening up its beaches and parks for more uses in the near future.

The action taken by the commissioners on Tuesday will not cover beaches or beach parks, Board of Commissioners Chairman Brian Hamman said.

The following sites’ trails will reopen Wednesday, April 22 as part of the county’s “phased-in approach to re-opening sites”:

* Lee County Parks & Recreation sites with trails

Caloosahatchee Regional Park (north side only)

Hickey Creek Mitigation Park

JY Linear Park

Lehigh Acres Trailhead Park

Nalle Grade Park

Pineland Monument Park

Pinewood Trails Park

Six Mile Cypress Slough Preserve (excluding the interpretive center)

Telegraph Creek Paddlecraft Launch

Tropical Point Park

* Lee County Parks & Recreation Conservation 20/20 preserves

Alva Scrub Preserve

Bob Janes Preserve

Buckingham Trails Preserve

Caloosahatchee Creeks Preserve East

Galt Preserve

Hickory Swamp Preserve

Pine Island Flatwoods Preserve

Pop Ash Creek Preserve

Powell Creek Preserve

Prairie Pines Preserve

Six Mile Cypress Preserve North

Telegraph Creek Preserve

Wild Turkey Strand Preserve

Meanwhile, the Re-Open Florida Task Force Executive Committee, a group consisting of more than 20 political and business leaders throughout the state appointed by Gov. Ron DeSantis, was scheduled to host two meetings through conference call on Tuesday to discuss re-opening the economy.

The committee is discussing steps the state may take to relax restrictions imposed by the governor since a state of emergency was declared last month in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

The committee has been reviewing health care information to see if a steadying of coronavirus cases is occurring and whether this is the appropriate time to relax restrictions that have been put into place to lessen the health threats posed by COVID-19. There have been 823 deaths from the coronavirus in Florida, out of more than 27,000 confirmed cases as of April 20.

The Florida Chamber of Commerce made a presentation to the committee on Monday, stating that a re-opening of the Florida economy will need to be more surgical since 20% of Florida’s economy is driven by tourism and 21% of the state’s population is 65 and older.

The most at-risk jobs currently are those in tourism, retail, construction and recreation/sports sectors, according to the chamber.

There are more than 1 million tourism-related jobs in the state, more than 1 million retail jobs and more than 600,000 construction jobs statewide. The chamber estimates that more than 88% of tourism-related jobs are at risk, more than 86% of recreation/sports jobs are in jeopardy, more than 65% of retail jobs are at risk and more than 45% of construction jobs are at risk.

Tuesday’s meeting was set to focus on the hardest-hit industries in the state and what can be done to help them get back on their feet. The committee was set to meet with representatives of the restaurant industry, hotel industry, tourism industry and the Florida Chamber of Commerce.

With the opening of beaches in Jacksonville last week, there appears to be some momentum growing for a relaxation of movement restrictions in the state.

Ryan Ash, deputy press secretary to DeSantis, said towns and cities have the ability to open up beaches on their own as DeSantis has not made any orders to municipal beaches. DeSantis did close state parks and state beaches.

DeSantis was expected to hold a press conference Tuesday to give further updates about plans regarding the re-opening of the state’s economy.

Ash said the current plan is for the Re-Open Florida Task Force Executive Committee to meet each day this week and made recommendations to DeSantis by the end of the week.