April 2020 Director’s Message: COVID-19 Impacts to Harbor

Ordinarily I like to open with an upbeat message, but who could have imagined……

We are living in unprecedented times. The novel coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak has expanded worldwide and touched nearly every corner of the globe.  Impacts of COVID-19 are widespread and have, and will continue to change life for the foreseeable future, and will likely change the world as we know it for the rest of our lives.  I doubt that I will shake another hand or hug socially as long as I live, and that saddens me.

At the Channel Islands Harbor, we have been forced to cancel popular annual events for the Spring and summer , non-essential businesses have closed, essential businesses including those which provide food options have changed the way they operate, and the Harbor Department has changed the way we do business, joining the rest of our County family.

To further combat the spread of COVID-19, the County of Ventura Health Director has issued a “Stay Well at Home” emergency order – ordering all residents to stay inside their homes, and immediately limit all movement outside of their homes beyond that which is necessary to take care of essential needs.  The order became effective March 20, 2020.  That Order has been modified to allow essential businesses to remain open and prioritizes community health, which includes the ability to leave your home for exercise and fresh air, but not congregate.

Closures In and Around the Harbor and Social Distancing at the Farmers’ Market

The Harbor has always been a popular destination for residents and visitors to recreate,  exercise and enjoy the outdoors. We are a recreational Harbor that includes a public launch ramp for boaters, water access for motorized and non-motorized vessels, public parks, scenic walkways, two pristine beaches in Silver Strand and Hollywood, a family-friendly Kiddie Beach, and we host the best Sunday Farmers’ Market in the County.  All these amenities attract people, which unfortunately in these times creates potential health issues.

According to the Stay Well at Home Order, “when outside their places of residence, all persons must maintain, as reasonably possible, a physical distance of at least six-feet from any other person and comply with all other Social Distancing Requirements.” Unfortunately, we have witnessed that as we are mandated to adjust to this new set of rules, not all residents and visitors have been as compliant or cautious as we would hope.  It seems as if a shocking number of individuals are out and about and socializing despite the orders.

As a result, government agencies are forced to implement open space closures to force the social distancing.  The State has been very aggressive with closures, and many local governments are doing the same.  Our beaches, parks and launch ramp have never been as crowded as those to the south, however, as more closed, we were getting increasingly more pressure from outside visitors as there are less waterfront amenities in southern California available.  To that end, to limit the spread of COVID-19 in an increasingly crowded waterfront area, we have closed the beach parking lots, parks and the launch ramp until further notice.

I recognize that these actions are not popular, and we have received a fair share of criticism, but it is the duty of governments to keep residents as safe as possible.  Our government agencies, including Federal, State and County, are doing everything we can to meet that obligation.

Thankfully, the Farmers’ Market continues to be defined as an essential service, as it offers an open-air alternative to grocery store shopping.  Raw Inspiration, Inc., the operator of the market, has done a great job developing and implementing safety measures to ensure limited access, cleanliness and personal distancing.  This past Sunday, the new procedures provided a safe experience for people looking for fresh food and produce, which is a significant help to our local growers and producers.  We will continue to support the Farmers’ Market and ensure they are providing patrons a safe experience.

Support Harbor Dining Options

While most Ventura County businesses have closed and people are staying home, there are essential businesses that remain open. At the Harbor, most of the restaurants are open for take-out and some for delivery.  In addition, the Harbor Mart in the Harbor offers take-out food from its deli, as well as a wide variety of grocery staples, and some of the vendors from the Farmers’ Market are now offering delivery service, such as Fresh Fish Fanatics.

We are doing everything we can to support our neighbors, local business owners, and restaurant workers who depend on continued business during this crisis.  We have been more aggressive in providing marketing support to these businesses via our website and social media channels, and I urge you to patronize these essential businesses during this very difficult time for us all.

March 24 was dubbed “Great American Takeout Day,” a universal urge to order food from local businesses. Moving forward, we will be promoting “Takeout Tuesday” and encourage you to support a local Harbor dining option, at least on Tuesdays. Check out this link to view open Harbor dining options.

As we roll into April, I want to encourage everyone to abide by the County’s “Stay Well at Home” order, and if you do visit the Harbor, please practice social distancing guidelines. We will get through this together and come out stronger.

As always, live every day to the fullest and pray for a quick end to this crisis.

Mark Sandoval, Harbor Director
Ventura County Harbor Department

Editor’s Note: this story was published on April 6, 2020.