Photography by ALICE MARY HERDEN
PINE ISLAND-- At 8 am on Friday, May 1 a Hernando County Parks and Recreation employee pushed the button to open the motorized gate into Alfred McKethan/Pine Island Beach Park. On Tuesday April 28, the Board of County Commission voted to reopen all of Hernando County’s parks and recreational areas to the public.
Diane Caputo and her friend, Maryann Cole, drove to Pine Island Park from Pasco County.
“This isn’t new to me, but being isolated from everybody is,” said Diane Caputo who works from home. “This is my first day out of the house in seven weeks. This is rehab for me. I knew this little gem (Pine Island Park) was hidden away, and I can come here and escape.”
Maryann Cole mentioned that areas in Pasco were not opening until May 4th, so she took advantage of some outdoor relaxation in Hernando County.
“The sun and the sand,” Maryann Cole said, is what brought her to Pine Island. “We heard this was open, and here we are.”
Willy Kochounian, the owner of Willy’s Tropical Breeze Cafe, opened his restaurant in 1993 and has seen his share of changes at Pine Island Park. From the no-name storm to COVID-19.
“It’s not a consistent business,” Kochounain laughed. “When it rains, when it’s cold, there are bacteria in the water, there’s always something, but we fight with it, what are we going to do? I love my business.”
The hour goes by fast; more visitors are seen patiently waiting in their cars to pass through the gate into Pine Island Park.
Even though things are slowly going back to normal, residents are encouraged to follow the CDC guidelines and restrictions outlined below while visiting Hernando County park locations:
No organized sports, events or large gatherings will be permitted
No rental of County buildings, pavilions, etc. will be permitted
Visitors are encouraged to follow CDC guidelines for social distancing while visiting County parks:
- Stay at least 6 feet from others
- Do not gather in groups
- Wash your hands often
- Cover your face and nose with a cloth face cover when around others
- Cover your cough and sneeze