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Baker enacts more bans on parks, beaches

By Elyse Carmosino | April 4, 2020

REVERE — Governor Baker has announced additional State park restrictions for Massachusetts residents congregating outdoors during the COVID-19 health crisis. 

“We heard from many of our colleagues in local law enforcement and in local communities that people were not abiding by the rules and guidelines associated with gatherings … at the beaches last weekend,” Baker said during a press conference Thursday.

Effective as of noon Friday, the new order prohibits the following activities at all state parks and beaches: 

Parking at any site managed by the Department of Conservation and Recreation. 
All sitting, sunbathing and other stationary recreational activities.
Athletic and recreational activities that bring participants into close, physical contact.

Signs along Lynn Shore Drive in Lynn and Swampscott informed residents Friday that the area was closed off to parking, and beach parking at Long Beach in Nahant was also banned.

The Swampscott Select Board and Board of Health had already discussed closing Lynn Shore Drive during a virtual meeting on April 1, due to the high number of people who walk the area. 

“It’s been out there on Facebook, about half and half, that 50 percent of people think it should be closed and about 50 percent of people think it should remain open,” said Swampscott Board of Health Chairwoman Marianne Hartmann. 

Hartmann said the first sunny day of the year would likely bring lots of people out on the sidewalk and beach. 

“It’s very concerning about what that sidewalk could look like,” Hartmann said. “It’s a temptation of course. It’s a lot of people’s normal walking route.”

During Thursday’s press conference, Baker said he’d heard complaints from community leaders across the state about residents refusing to follow social distancing guidelines. 

“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. “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. 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.”

A statement issued by the Revere Mayor’s office the same day expressed support for the Governor’s decision, saying: “These restrictions support the City’s efforts to reduce activity and congestion along Revere Beach.”

Last Saturday, Revere mayor Brian Arrigo expressed concern with the high number of people out and about at Revere Beach, prompting the mayor to take to the boardwalk with a bullhorn to get the message across. 

“(My team and I) were thinking about the fact that we’ve been communicating so much about the need to stay home and not congregate. It felt like a lot of that was falling on deaf ears,” he said. “In my mind, drastic times call for drastic measures.”

As of Thursday, Massachusetts has 8,966 reported cases of COVID-19. 

“I want to thank Governor Baker and Lieutenant Governor Polito for continuing to work closely with our team to address public safety concerns at Revere Beach and supporting us in protecting our residents,” Mayor Arrigo said in a statement. “Revere Beach continues to be an area where we are seeing groups of people congregating and not abiding by social distancing guidelines. We are doing everything we can to make sure our residents understand that staying at home will save lives.”