By CBSLA Staff

MANHATTAN BEACH (CBSLA) — Memorial Day weekend is the unofficial start to summer, and big crowds are expected to flock to Southern California’s beaches, parks, and trails.

People – especially those who have been vaccinated – are eager to get back to socializing with friends. And because public health officials say gatherings are safest outdoors, lifeguards and park rangers are getting ready for a busy holiday weekend.

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“We’re ready for everybody to come out and have a good time outdoors,” Ocean lifeguard specialist Marco Rodriguez said. “Being outdoors, it’s a great place to be rather than being all cooped indoors.”

All of Los Angeles County’s towers will be staffed this weekend, so people can spread out and still feel safe.

Public health officials have said there is a low risk of COVID-19 transmission outdoors, and the CDC says masks are not necessary outdoors, even for those who have not yet been vaccinated. Robert Bates of Manhattan Beach says he plans to go hiking with his grandchildren.

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“It’s great, you know, to be able to get out there, and get the muzzles off and be with the family,” he said.

At this time last year, the pandemic was still relatively new, and many restrictions were still in place to prevent gatherings. Beach parking lots were closed, many beachgoers wore masks, and people were only able to visit the beach for jogging, swimming or other active recreation. This year, however, there are no COVID restrictions on public outdoor spaces, many of which are reopening this weekend.

Mary Morigaki plans to have family over to her Manhattan Beach home.

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“It has been a long time,” Morigaki said. “It has been rough for the entire world, for sure, and everybody’s just really happy to get back out there again and see people.”