Gloucester is closing its beaches to out-of-towners this weekend after "excessive traffic" complaints from residents last weekend as the state continues to reopen after the coronavirus shutdowns.
"The last thing we want to do is close our parking lots to visitors, but our city had an influx of traffic this past weekend," Mayor Sefatia Romeo Theken said. "We need to reduce the amount of traffic, which is a challenge we face every year but has certainly been compounded by the COVID-19 pandemic."
All parking lots to public beaches will be closed to non-residents on Saturday, July 18 and Sunday, July 19, including the lots at Stage Fort Park, Good Harbor Beach and Wingaersheek Beach. Additional staff will be working the parking lots to enforce the non-resident rule this weekend, according to the city.
"More people are understandably looking to get outside after staying home for months to reduce risk of exposure to the virus, but that has meant traffic is worse and it isn't a sustainable situation for our residents," Romeo Theken said.
Gloucester officials will make an announcement next week on whether the beaches will be re-opened to non residents for the weekend of July 25 to July 26.
Residents can gain entry with a 2020 beach sticker, 2019 beach sticker, or a license and registration with a Gloucester address. Beachgoers are asked to maintain a minimum of 12 feet of distance between toweling and blankets.
"This issue is exacerbated as well by the limitations people have on travel, which means more people are taking day trips," Gloucester Public Health Director Karin Carroll said. "However, it's critical we ensure there is plenty of space for social distancing on the beach and that residents can go about their daily lives."
The city cited additional challenges around the ability to enforce social distancing in a press release about the decision to close. There will be less beach area available for visitors since high tide is expected early on Saturday and Sunday, at 10:21 a.m. and 11:07 a.m., respectively, according to U.S. Harbors. Additionally, a good part of Good Harbor Beach is sectioned off as conservation land for Piping Plovers, an endangered bird.
Gloucester's public beaches are currently open to a limited number of non-residents, and visitors to the area will still be permitted to park at public beach parking lots in Gloucester on weekdays, for the time being.