PINELLAS COUNTY, Fla. — Pinellas County officials are gearing up for a packed Memorial Day weekend at the beaches.
The sheriff’s office is relaunching its county beach capacity tracker. They're using 300 deputies spread out across the sand to give law enforcement updates about how busy beaches, beach access points, bridges and parking lots are throughout the weekend.
The Pinellas County Sheriff expects thousands of people to head to Pinellas County's 35 miles of coastline and that beaches will reach capacity early, forcing deputies to turn crowds away once the numbers get too high to allow people to social distance and stay 6 feet apart.
In St. Pete Beach, beachgoers will have to pay more to park. The city voted to raise prices because of money lost during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Parking fees will increase by 50 cents to $3.25 an hour.
The Pinellas County Sheriff say they’ll re-evaluate if hundreds of deputies are still needed to patrol the sand after this Memorial Day weekend. Although FEMA is reimbursing overtime expenses, the sheriff says it is taking "unprecedented manpower" to patrol the sand and parking lots.
Sheriff Bob Gualtieri says he is happy with how well people have distanced on the sand. He wants county leaders to decide if a high level of enforcement is still necessary after the holiday weekend.