Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker ordered Thursday that parking lots be closed at state beaches over concerns that visitors have been disregarding social distancing guidance aimed at stopping the spread of COVID-19.
“We heard from a lot of our colleagues at [the Department of Conservation and Recreation] and from many of our colleagues in local law enforcement and in local communities that people were not abiding by the rules and the guidelines associated with gatherings and distance and pretty much everything at the beaches last weekend,” Baker said at a press conference.
Effective at noon on Friday, all parking areas managed by DCR at state beaches will be closed to reduce the “large concentrations of people” visiting the beaches.
“Coastal parkways that provide access to state beaches will also be closed to both parking and dropping off passengers,” Baker’s office said in a statement. “State beaches will remain open and available to pedestrians for transitory use only (walking, jogging, biking, solitary fishing, etc.).”
Also effective Friday, a select number of state parks, including Pittsfield State Forest and Ashland State Park, will be opened early and offer expanded access, Baker’s office said. Parking spaces will be limited at certain parks to ensure they do not become overcrowded.
“State parks and associated parking areas remain open at this time; however, the public is asked to visit state parks and other open space properties that are located near their homes to ensure social distancing to limit the spread of COVID-19,” the governor’s office said. “Additionally, DCR’s agency-owned ice rinks, visitor centers, campgrounds, playgrounds, fitness areas, athletic fields, athletic courts, golf courses, and bathroom facilities will remain closed until Monday, May 4, 2020.”
Baker said Thursday that for the most part, residents of Massachusetts have “done well” respecting guidelines for staying at home and social distancing.
“We’ve tried to respect people’s willingness to play by the rules, but in this particular case we got a lot of input from a lot of places that people were not treating any of the distancing rules at the beaches the way they should have been,” he said of the parking closures at beaches. “And our solution to that is if people can’t play by the rules, if it’s too big a temptation, then we’re just going to get rid of the parking. And if you can walk to the beach, OK, but you better be sure you abide by the rules associated with social distancing and recognize and understand that parking yourself on a beach, on a blanket, with a barbecue, with 15 other people is just an incredibly bad idea at this point in time, given where we are and what’s going on.”
A list of the parking restrictions at state beaches can be found here.