Selectmen Give Nod To 2020 Beach Opening Plan

By: William F. Galvin

Topics: Beaches , COVID-19

In the off-season social distancing is not that difficult a task at Red River Beach. CHRONICLE FILE PHOTO 

HARWICH — Recreation Department Director Eric Beeb presented the board of selectmen with a 2020 beach season opening plan that limits some beach parking and reduces the sale of one-day beach passes to two beaches. The board approved the plan by consensus last week.

Interim Town Administrator Joseph Powers said the plan takes in the town’s obligation under Gov. Charlie Baker’s first phase of reopening Massachusetts and follows the guideline memorandum issued by Secretary of the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affair Kathleen Theoharides.

Beebe said the plan began on May 26 with the hiring of 13 to 15 specially-trained employees to oversee beach activities. Among their tasks will be assuring no ball playing, kites, frisbees or games are played on the beach; that masks are worn; that no groups of more than 10 people congregate; and that social distancing is adhered to.

Health Department Director Meggan Eldredge has put together a PowerPoint presentation for Beebe to use as an education tool. She emphasized that groups should be 12 feet apart, although family units of no more than 10 can remain in closer proximity with blankets and towels, but masks must be worn if someone other than family enters the area.

COVID-19-trained personnel will be located at Red River, Bank Street, Earle Road, Pleasant Road, Atlantic Avenue, Grey Neck, Brooks Road and Cahoon beaches and Fernandez Bog and Sand Pond. They will monitor beaches from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Powers said the personnel would serve more as security personnel than normal gate attendants. Powers said the town hopes the cost of the employees will be reimbursed through the CARES Act.

They will be provided masks, gloves, sanitizer and a first aid kit.

Each of the teams will be trained by the health department in COVID safety awareness and be required to wear masks and gloves when social distancing is not possible. Lifeguard stands will be limited to one guard per stand at all times and significant space will be blocked off around each stand to ensure distancing between staff and beachgoers. All equipment will be washed and sanitized after every shift.

Staff will also be vigilant and aware of their own health and any illness or symptoms to supervisors. Staff will also not be allowed to carpool to work. Gate attendants selling day passes will be provided with a money drop box so that patrons can insert payment in the slot without money changing hands. Only exact amounts will be accepted.

Daily beach passes will be sold at Red River Beach and Fernandez Bog only this year, not at Earle Road and Pleasant Road beaches. That decision was made to accommodate social distancing based on the limited public beach space at the latter beaches.

The back of Earle Road parking lot will be blocked off and parking capacity will be limited to 50 percent. At Pleasant Road Beach the back two rows of parking spaces will be blocked, limiting parking to 60 percent. All other public beaches will have full parking based on acreage and the ability to accommodate social distancing.

Beach restroom facilities will be open at all town beaches and will be cleaned two to three times a day by the department of public works. The COVID-trained personnel will be responsible for managing restroom lines and social distancing. The DPW will continue its normal trash pickup schedule at the beaches.

Beach food vendors under town contract will have to work with the health department to obtain proper permitting and only curbside pickup will be allowed. There will be no picnic tables or seats. Hand sanitizer stations will also be placed at all town beaches.

Beebe was asked if plans are in place to handle an unruly patron. He said he has discussed the issue with Police Chief David Guillemette and normal procedures will be followed. Staff is trained on the process which entails contacting a beach supervisor, and if the issue cannot be settled, calling police.

Board of Selectmen Chairman Larry Ballantine praised the signage the recreation department has put in place. Beebe said the signs, which highlight safety guidelines and beach policies regarding COVID-19, will be placed at all town beaches.