Day trippers heading to Gloucester beaches this weekend can once again park at the city’s beach lots, which are reopening in a limited manner.
Last weekend, the city closed the parking lots at Stage Fort Park, Good Harbor Beach, and Wingaersheek Beach to non-residents after complaints of excessive traffic, illegal parking, and littering. City officials were also concerned about social distancing amid the coronavirus pandemic.
On Saturday and Sunday, the beach lots will welcome Gloucester residents and “a limited number of non-residents, at a reduced capacity,” according to a city press release. Stage Fort Park will also be open to the public, with the Visitors Center welcoming guests Thursday through Monday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Last weekend when the parking lots were closed to non-residents, the beaches had “far less traffic,” Mayor Romeo Theken said in a press release. The police still issued 153 parking violations and towed five cars, according to the release. Nearly three dozen streets were temporarily classified as “resident parking only” to reduce traffic, according to the city, which said it will classify more streets near the beach as such to limit non-resident street parking.
The city said it will closely monitor parking violations for the rest of the summer.
Gloucester is also stepping up police patrols on its beaches, and beach rangers will assist city staff by monitoring safety guidelines and limiting capacity at Stage Fort Park and Gloucester beaches to allow for proper social distancing.
Residents with either a 2019 or 2020 beach sticker or a car registration and license with a Gloucester address can continue parking in the lots. Those who aren’t residents of Gloucester will be required to pay daily parking rates. Beach parking lots usually fill up by 9 a.m. on weekends, noted the city, but will reopen in the afternoon.
“If our beaches become overwhelmed or if capacity is reduced because of tides, we may have to limit access again in the future,” Theken said.
For the remainder of the summer, beachgoers will find announcements about weekend parking restrictions posted on Wednesdays, according to the city, and can go to the Gloucester beaches Facebook page for information.
“Please be respectful when visiting our City and follow the rules in place,” Theken said in a statement. “The safety of City residents, employees and guests is our priority. COVID-19 doesn’t take a summer vacation, and we must all continue to do our part to keep each other safe. Please wear a face covering in public, maintain social distancing, wash and sanitize your hands often and stay home if you’re sick.”