LORRAINE THOMPSON: Beach season is upon us, let’s learn the rules

With local schools out for the summer starting next week, and Memorial Day weekend right behind, St. Johns County beachgoers can expect additional beach activities with the emphasis on beach safety.


Memorial Day weekend marks the beginning of full-scale guarded beaches by St. Johns County Marine Rescue which includes a team of United States Lifesaving Association-certified beach lifeguards. An average of 16 lifeguard towers will be staffed daily from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. The guards will be assisted by staff supervisors who travel the coastline in various response vehicles.

Weather permitting, the county will once again provide free shuttles to beaches on the weekends of May 27-29, July 1-3 and Sept. 2-4 from Cornerstone Park (1046 A1A North) to Mickler’s Beachfront Park and from St. Augustine Beach City Hall (2200 A1A South) to St. Johns County Ocean and Fishing pier. Shuttles are expected to run every 20 minutes between the hours of 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Beach flags and signage are posted at beach access points and lifeguard towers, providing daily condition updates as well as safety information regarding rip currents and other common beach hazards. A purple flag means there is dangerous marine life in the nearby waters. Red signals dangerous water conditions. Yellow advises swimmers to be cautious. Green signals safe conditions.

From March 1 through Sept. 30, vehicles are required to pay a vehicle beach access toll. The south beach ramps are located at A Street, Ocean Trace, Dondanville Road, Matanzas Avenue, Mary Street and Crescent Beach. Vehicular beach access is currently not permitted on the north beach ramps at Vilano Beach and Porpoise Point due to the Army Corps of Engineers and the Florida Inland Navigation District sand placement project. The project is scheduled to be completed by June.

Through Sept. 30, the daily vehicle rate is $6 for St. Johns County residents, $5 for handicapped, $8 for non-residents, and $5 for active military. Disabled veterans (100 percent) can receive one annual beach pass with proof of disability identification.

Frequent visitors can still take advantage of the annual pass rates which are $40 for St. Johns County residents; $60 for non-county residents, and $30 for a handicap pass. Passes are available only at the toll booths during the hours of 8 a.m. and 5 p.m.

Throughout sea turtle nesting season, May 1 to Oct. 31, beach gates are closed between the hours of 7:30 p.m. and 8 a.m. Coastal lighting ordinances are in effect which require coastal property owners to manage beachfront lighting to prevent disorienting nesting and hatchling turtles. The use of flashlights is strongly discouraged. If flashlights are necessary for safety they should be used with red filters which eliminates white light that is problematic for sea turtles. Lights from cell phone screens can also interfere with sea turtles trying to reach the sea, so they should be used only when absolutely necessary. Camera flashes (including cell phones) should not be used at night during nesting season. Beachgoers should remove their gear from the beach each evening and fill in any holes and level sand castles.

For an updated list of all St. Johns County beach access points including toll booth locations and beach walkovers, go to www.co.st-johns.fl.us/Beaches/BeachAccess. For general beach information visit www.sjcfl.us/Beaches. For daily updates to beach access and sand conditions visit www.co.st-johns.fl.us/ReachtheBeach.

Sea turtle nesting season got off to a good start. Last week’s nest report totaled 15 nests with 11 on the north beaches and four on Anastasia Island. While 12 of the nests were determined to be loggerheads, two were leatherbacks and one is a Kemp’s Ridley. At the same time last year, there were nine nests being monitored.

• The Wednesday night Music by the Sea Free Concert Series, presented by the St. Augustine Beach Civic Association, begins May 24 at St. Johns County Pier Park in St. Augustine Beach

The Ramona Quimby Band will open the concert season. The band’s wide repertoire runs the gamut from jazz classics to Motown, from Prince to the latest pop and hip hop.

Sixteen bands and music groups are scheduled throughout the summer concert series which runs through Sept. 6, offering a wide variety of music including jazz, blues, classic rock, pop, reggae, disco and country. Concerts are from 7-9 p.m.

In addition to music, concert-goers can dine before the show with favorites from a different local restaurant each week. Opening night will offer dinners from the Purple Olive. All dinners throughout the concert season are priced at $10 or less. Food service begins at 6 a.m.

Visitors may also bring their own food and beverages. It’s advisable to bring your own beach chairs or a blanket for seating. Dogs are permitted as long as they are leashed.

Getting to the concerts will be half the fun. Parking is limited in and around Pier Park. There will, however, be a Park, Ride & Dance shuttle program from St Augustine Beach City Hall, 2200 A1A S., and Ron Parker Park, 607 Old Beach Rd. Parking is free at both locations. The shuttle will run a continuous loop from 5:45 until 10 p.m. Civic association members ride free. Non-members pay $1. Children 12-and-under ride free with a paid adult. The shuttle is air conditioned and has room to accommodate coolers and beach chairs.

Other upcoming concerts will feature The Committee on May 31 with food by Amici Italian; Those Guys on June 7 with food by the Seafood Kitchen; and Ain’t Too Proud to Beg, June 14, with food by Oyster Bar.

For membership, the complete 2017 concert schedule and other information, visit www.sabca.org, call 347-8007 or email sabcivic@yahoo.com

St. Augustine Beach Police Department will host an active shooter incident seminar from 7-9 p.m. Monday at Courtyard Marriott, 605 A1A Beach Blvd. The seminar is free, open to the public and all ages are invited. The training seminar goal is to provide participants with a response plan and what they need to know for their best chance to survive. The seminars teach the public how to react during an active shooting incident using the run, hide and fight process. For information, call 471-3600.

• Eight local organizations recently received awards through the Florida State of the Arts License Program. Each arts license plate sold in the county generates $20 for this designated fund. Among the awards was one to the Friends of the Anastasia Island Branch Library which received $500 for its Kids Art Lab: Lost Arts. The program, for ages 5 to 11, teaches the history of a type of art/art form or cultural group with hands on activity for the children to complete and take home. The next scheduled Kids Art Lab is from 3-4 p.m. on May 26. The library is located at 124 Seagrove Main St., off A1A South. Call 209-3730 for details.

Have news to share about Anastasia Island or the adjoining areas? Send your information about people and events to staugbeachwatch@aol.com, or call 471-4851.