VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) — The City of Virginia Beach has put plans into place to make sure a beach party that in 2019 made national headlines for all the wrong reasons, doesn’t land there again.
While not an officially sanctioned event, those who live adjacent to Chesapeake Beach say social media posts indicate “Floatopia” is again happening in their community this Sunday.
Leaders of area civic leagues say with COVID-19 gathering restrictions set to be lifted Friday, there is anxiety over what kind of atmosphere that could bring.
Two years ago, 10 tons of trash was left behind after thousands descended on the beach just west of Lynnhaven Inlet the Sunday before Memorial Day for a party filled with all sorts of flotation devices.
Homeowners say what happened during the actual event was even worse. Floatopia visitors were drunk, illegally parked, participating in drug activity, urinating on private property, exposing themselves and even threatened some homeowners, according to civic league leadership.
A mother served time behind bars after she became drunk during the event and left her children unsupervised.
In a heated meeting soon after the event, city leadership claimed they didn’t know the event would be happening and wouldn’t allow it to happen again.
Danny Murphy, president of the Ocean Park Civic League, said many are still skeptical.
“The debacle that happened with the trash and the lawlessness that occurred,” Murphy said. “This community is hardened from it now after 2019.”
Murphy said upon seeing the social media posts about Floatopia this year, he wrote to city Mayor Bobby Dyer to make sure the city was aware of the event.
On Wednesday, the city released its plan to beef up the law enforcement presence on the beach, set out plenty of portable bathrooms and trash cans and more aggressively enforce parking rules.
“People need to know that we will not be afraid to tow,” said Julie Hill, a spokesperson for the city.
Many streets around the public beach access are narrow and only allow for parking for those of have a residential parking permit.
10 On Your Side could not reach Stephen Hobbs, the man who had identified himself as the organizer of 2019’s event. However, social media posts promoting the gathering had been taken down or made private by the time of publishing.
Murphy said he is optimistic the city is following through on their word.
“We’ve already seen the officers riding the ATVs out on the beach today so we think it will be much better this year,” Murphy said. “We want people to come to the beach and enjoy it. We just want to have a quiet and family-oriented beach.”