Parking lots at state beaches are closing to reduce further spread of the coronavirus

State officials said DCR will open some seasonal state parks early and expand access at other parks to provide other open space opportunities for people to enjoy as an alternative.

Starting Friday, there will be early openings at Ashland State Park, Willard Brook State Forest in West Townsend, Dunn State Park in Gardner, Pittsfield State Forest, and Rutland State Park. There will also be expanded access to Hopkinton State Park, Cochituate State Park in Natick, Robinson State Park in Agawam, and Wompatuck State Park in Hingham.

DCR officials are also urging people to check the Massachusetts State Parks COVID-19 Updates webpage before visiting any state park property.

“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,” officials said in a press release. “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. DCR will also be limiting the amount of parking spaces available at certain high-visitation state parks.”

DCR officials have been advising the public to practice social distancing by staying at least six feet away from other people and to avoid gatherings of 10 or more. State officials said if a park is crowded, visitors should consider going somewhere else or coming back at a different time. People should only participate in non-contact recreational activities and they should stay home if they are sick, over 70 years old, or part of a vulnerable population.

Domenico Sestito, chairman of the Hull Board of Selectmen, praised the move by the governor to close state beach parking lots. Nantasket Beach is known to attract large numbers of people, and on a warm day it’s a place where “you can easily have 10 people walking by each other,” he said. “We’re concerned. This is very scary stuff.”

Officials in other communities across the state have been trying to figure out ways to stop people from congregating in outdoor spaces. On Thursday officials in Duxbury announced that Duxbury Beach, all beach parking areas, and access to the Powder Point Bridge would be closed to the public effective immediately until further notice.

Duxbury officials acknowledged in a press release that the closure of the beach will put pressure on other outdoor recreational areas, and advised the public to “think twice before getting [in] their car and driving somewhere to recreate.”

“During the weeks ahead, the town of Duxbury urges people to consider recreating closer to home and we encourage limiting your time outdoors to local outings,” officials said in the statement.

In Marblehead, the beaches are open but the beach parking lots are closed, and the town plans to increase its use of educational signage “at all parks, playgrounds, beaches, and other areas where people congregate to stress the importance of social distancing,” according to Marblehead Town Administrator Jason Silva.

“The Town has been working to use all communication outlets available to stress the importance of social distancing and staying at home if possible,” he said in an e-mail. “We have closed playgrounds, basketball courts, tennis courts, our dog park and the parking lots at Devereux Beach, Riverhead and Chandler Hovey park all in an effort to reduce large gatherings. We have also strategically placed digital sign boards promoting social distancing and staying home around Town.”

Emily Sweeney can be reached at [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter @emilysweeney.

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