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Beaches, parks on LI fill up on cool Memorial Day weekend

Michael Geraldi, of Merrick, plays football with his

Michael Geraldi, of Merrick, plays football with his niece at Jones Beach on Sunday. Credit: James Carbone

Residents cooped up at home for months poured into Long Island's state beaches and parks Sunday, filling more than a dozen to capacity despite cool Memorial Day weekend weather.

As the unofficial summer beach season begins, state, county and town officials said visitors to Long Island's beaches largely complied with social distancing guidelines created to prevent the shoreline from becoming a breeding ground for COVID-19.

Thirteen state beaches and parks had to close by 2 p.m. on Sunday, including Connetquot River State Park Preserve, Planting Fields Arboretum and Orient Beach State Park, according to the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation website.

Dan Keefe, a spokesman for the agency, said there were no "significant issues" with visitors flouting social distancing protocols at the facilities.

Despite overcast skies for much of the day, visitors to Jones Beach on Sunday described their outings as a welcome break from life under lockdown.

"It's good to get out of the house," said Beata Jacoby of Forest Hills, who visited the state beach with her husband and son. "We were hoping it would be a little sunnier and warmer, but it's still nice to be out."

Michael Geraldi said he came to Jones Beach on Sunday with family and friends.

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"Unless it was pouring or a hurricane, we were going to be here," Geraldi said.

To help keep crowds at state beaches thin, New York has capped attendance at 50%, banned group contact sports, kept concessions closed and patrolled the waterfront to ensure visitors keep a safe distance from one another.

"Anyone that does not adhere to this guidance will be requested to leave," the state parks department wrote in a news release last week.

In addition to the state mandates, municipalities have rolled out a range of measures to prevent the virus from spreading at their beaches as warmer weather draws larger crowds to the waterfront.

At Nickerson Beach, Nassau County has stationed parks workers outside restrooms to ensure only six people enter any of them at a time, county spokesman Mike Fricchione said. And the Town of Oyster Bay has set up an online livestream of Tobay Beach so would-be visitors can see how crowded it is before deciding to visit, town Supervisor Joseph Saladino said.

Officials from Long Island counties and towns reported few issues at their beaches on Sunday and said the mild weather kept attendance below capacity.

"It's been really quiet," said Islip Town Supervisor Angie Carpenter. "The weather certainly is not really conducive to swimming."

Officials from Nassau and Suffolk Counties and the towns of Huntington, Brookhaven and Babylon reported similarly light crowds at their beaches on Sunday.

While park rangers have asked people to space out more and broke up some group sports, beachgoers largely obeyed social distancing orders, the local officials said.

"Patrons are adhering to social distancing guidelines and have voluntarily complied with every request if park rangers felt they needed more distance," a spokesman for the Suffolk County Parks Department said.

With James Carbone

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