'Hard for me to say:' Atlantic Beach mayor asks visitors to stay home, not travel to beach for now amid COVID-19

ATLANTIC BEACH, N.C. (WTVD) -- As the state prepares to reopen in phases, some North Carolina beach towns are easing restrictions.

The message from one coastal town to residents of the Triangle considering a beach trip: Don't.

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Atlantic Beach is dealing with yet a third set back.

In the fall of 2018, it was Hurricane Florence and in the fall of 2019, Hurricane Dorian.

And now, in what appeared to be a promising spring season, Atlantic Beach is dealing with COVID-19.

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"It's been a big blow to our local businesses," said Atlantic Beach Mayor Trace Cooper. "We were really starting to come back strong after Hurricane Florence and Dorian."

The plans to lift some restrictions include allowing public beach access, lifting a ban on travel from outside the county and lifting limits on some beach recreation- even opening some public parking.

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But Triangle residents, Mayor Trace Cooper says this is not for you.

"This isn't the weekend to travel to the beach from the Triangle," Mayor Cooper said.

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Atlantic Beach has about 5 miles of beach front. The town plans to open about 150 parking spaces, an amount they believe will enable continued social distancing.

"Our goal in opening some of these parking spaces was not to open the flood gates to tourists. It was to allow primarily to allow some locals to get out on the and get some fresh air," Cooper said.

Hotels and motels are still closed along with vacation rentals.

Mayor Cooper said that other beach towns on the Crystal Coast are operating in a similar capacity.

It's not forever, just for now. Atlantic Beach wants your business, but when it is safe.

"We're a beach town. It's hard for me to say, to tell our visitors to stay home, but that's what we're saying right now."
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