EAST LYME, Conn. — The COVID-19 pandemic is changing how some of us are celebrating the Fourth of July.
Many people are heading to Connecticut state parks and beaches instead of traveling out of state.
But, with the large crowds expected on the roads and at state attractions amid social distancing rules, officials are preparing for a busy holiday weekend.
Some CT state parks have closed Saturday after reaching full capacity.
DEEP has issued an updated State Park operations plan Friday afternoon:
Swimming permitted only at shoreline State Parks (not inland State Park swim areas) at this time.
Officials say the decision is based on considerations of potential crowding and the ability to maintain social distancing onshore and in the water at beach locations.
Guidance from the state Department of Public Health indicates that recreational swimming is not a known form of transmission of COVID-19, in saltwater or freshwater.
- Lifeguards are now on duty at shoreline beaches in Connecticut state parks, as staffing allows. On days and times when these beaches do not have lifeguards on duty, they will be posted as "No Lifeguards on Duty."
- Restroom buildings at our shoreline parks are now open.
- Visitors to shoreline parks must maintain 15’ of space from other beachgoers (blanket-to-blanket). This distance will allow for a 6’ radius around each person or family and a 3’ walkway in between groups.
- Shoreline parks continue to operate at lower capacity levels, to prevent overcrowding and support social distancing. If you choose to visit a shoreline state park that features a beach, visitors are encouraged to select locations closest to home, and consider visiting early in the morning before crowds gather. Shoreline parks have been reaching capacity and closing early, especially during weekends. Visitors should be ready with a back-up plan if their first choice is closed. Real-time updates on closures are posted on the state parks Twitter feed, or website.
- Visitors should bring face coverings and use them whenever they are in proximity to others. Face coverings should not be worn in the water.
State Campgrounds, Cabins, and Youth Sites: State Park Campgrounds opened July 1 for RV campers. The campgrounds will be open to all campers (including tent campers) beginning Wednesday, July 8. The campground reservation system has been re-opened to make reservations for camping between July 8 and the end of the 2020 season. Cabins, Youth Group and River Camping will not be open for the 2020 season. All camping is by reservation and walk-ins will not be permitted.
Group size: According to the state’s Phase 2 re-opening guidance, there is a limit of 100 people for outdoor group activities. Six feet of distance between non-household members remains in place for group events, as well as use of masks where appropriate distancing can’t be maintained. It can be difficult to maintain social distancing in large groups, so DEEP encourages visitors to consider enjoying parks in smaller groups.
Picnicking: Picnicking remains limited in parks. Household members are permitted to bring a blanket, sit on the ground or bring their own table and chairs to picnic. Larger groups of up to 100 can picnic as long as members of the group stay 6’ apart. Picnic tables may be available on a limited basis and placed to ensure adequate social distancing can be maintained. However, DEEP is not disinfecting picnic tables and encourages the public to bring a table cover.
Boating: DEEP’s more than 117 state boat launches are open, though capacity limits and social distancing guidance apply to those as well. Boaters are encouraged to get on the water responsibly. Operating a vessel under the influence of alcohol or drugs is illegal on all bodies of water and can lead to serious injuries and consequences.
DEEP is participating in the national Operation Dry Water campaign, a period of heightened awareness and enforcement during the 4th of July holiday weekend from July 3 – 5. DEEP reminds boaters to boat sober and always wear a life jacket when on the water.
Rocky Neck State Park already saw a steady stream of cars heading in Friday morning.
State Police released Friday morning the following traffic statistics for the Fourth of July weekend as of July 3:
- 3,907 calls for service, with 132 motorist assists
- 179 accidents, 28 with injury (none serious in nature)
- 19 arrests for operating a motor vehicle under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol. (Four of them stemmed from motor vehicle collisions)
- 199 citations for speeding
- 6 citations for seatbelts
- 491 hazardous moving violations (to include: unsafe lane change, following too closely, move over, etc).
Officials say those stats are from the time period starting at 6 p.m. Wednesday, July 1 to 7 a.m. Saturday, July 4.
Over the July 4th weekend in 2019, troopers say they responded to 7,184 calls, issued 652 speeding tickets and 75 for seatbelt citations. A total of 1,859 violations for unsafe lane change, following too closely, move over, etc were reported.
Fifty DUI arrests were made and 248 accident were investigated, 51 with injuries. No fatalities were reported.