The Santa Monica Pier and Pacific Park fully reopened Friday. But crowds of tourists and local residents prompted police to limit access Sunday night, and local officials said they are prepared to do so again if necessary.

With coronavirus cases on the decline, vaccinations increasing and temperatures warming, Santa Monica has seen a number of tourists and travelers find their way back to the beach and popular shopping areas around town. Even with the relaxed regulations, it’s been many weeks since visitors were able to enjoy a ride on the iconic Ferris wheel or Pacific Park roller coaster; however, the park reopened rides just in time for the holiday weekend after receiving approval from the state and county.

After a year of business closures and travel restrictions devastating the local economy, an uptick in foot traffic would appear to be beneficial for the region, but as images of hundreds of mostly maskless people poured onto social media this weekend, city leaders made the call to limit access to the Pier Sunday evening.

“The City manager or designee made the decision to restrict access and/or close the Pier for Covid-19 public health reasons,” Santa Monica Police Lt. Rudy Flores said Monday, so officers closed off the entrance to the Santa Monica Pier, near Ocean Avenue, and the stairs near Bubba Gump Shrimp Company.

“In terms of this weekend, we were prepared and had measures in place to restrict access whenever necessary to support physical distancing,” City spokesperson Constance Farrell said. “We followed through on preparations with access restricted at approximately 6 p.m. last night, Sunday, April 4.”

Because of spring break and holidays like Easter and Passover, which normally call for a celebration with family and loved ones, authorities across southern California warned travelers that their actions could spur a new surge in COVID-19 cases if they aren’t responsible in their adventures throughout Southern California during the weekend.

Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said during a briefing last week “What we’re seeing now is more travel than we saw throughout the pandemic, including the Christmas and New Year’s holidays.”

County Health Director Barbara Ferrer said in a separate briefing Monday the state has not seen the same kind of spike in coronavirus cases as the rest of the country. But that doesn’t mean it’s time to let your guard down.

“We will continue to monitor occupancy to support a safe experience for all,” Farrell added in a statement Monday that detailed how COVID-19 Health Ambassadors and Code Enforcement continue to be out in public spaces, including the Pier. “The City of Santa Monica has measures in place to prioritize public health and safety, including temporarily restricting access to the Santa Monica Pier at any time that physical distancing cannot be maintained due to occupancy.”

brennon@smdp.com