Sun-filled Long Island state parks and beaches beckoned to the quarantined crowds on Saturday, prompting several to stop accepting visitors by midmorning.
But government officials and authorities said most Long Islanders were practicing social distancing on the warm spring weekend.
Nassau County Executive Laura Curran said the county’s parks and beaches were busy Saturday, but most crowds observed social distancing. All Nassau County-operated beaches and parks remained open.
“People are out enjoying our parks, beaches, waterways, harbors and bays. So far, all the reports I’m getting is that people are doing the right thing and enjoying the fresh air and sunshine, maintaining social distancing. If they can’t maintain distance, they have masks,” Curran said.
Jones Beach and other state parks closed because they'd reached capacity by Saturday morning.
As of 10 a.m., the state Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation website said these sites were at capacity: Shadmoor State Park, Amsterdam Beach State Park and Camp Hero in Montauk; Caleb Smith State Park Preserve in Smithtown; Connetquot River State Park Preserve in Oakdale; Planting Fields Arboretum in Oyster Bay; and Bayard Cutting Arboretum in Great River.
By noon, Field 6 at Jones Beach State Park, Field 5 at Robert Moses State Park and Caumsett State Historic Park Preserve in Huntington also had closed, the state said.
Montauk Point, Belmont Lake State Park in West Babylon, Sunken Meadow State Park in Kings Park, Captree State Park in Bay Shore and Heckscher State Park in East Islip also closed Saturday afternoon, according to the state parks website.
A parks official said Friday that extra park police have been assigned and are coordinating with State Police to provide additional law enforcement coverage at Montauk-area state parks.
Although state park grounds are open during the coronavirus pandemic, New Yorkers are encouraged to stay home, according to a post on the state parks website. Anyone who does visit a state park is advised to "visit parks close to home, avoid crowded areas, and wear face coverings where you cannot maintain safe social distance."
And, the parks department noted, parks often prove highly popular in spring, not just during a pandemic.
“It’s not uncommon for the arboretums, historic parks to reach full capacity at this time of year when flowering trees are in bloom,” said spokesman Dan Keefe.
In Long Beach, meanwhile, city officials said the beach was busy, with small groups of families gathering and practicing social distancing.
The city’s 2.2-mile boardwalk has been closed since March, but the city opened two ramps on the end of the boardwalk at Neptune Boulevard and New York Avenue to ease crowding at entrance points. The beach also is accessible on the city’s West End, but lifeguards are not on duty.
The city is building bathrooms at both ends of the boardwalk. No date has been announced on when the boardwalk may reopen or when the city could begin selling beach passes for the summer.
Nassau County’s fire marshals and police were enforcing social distancing rules and had issued citations to some businesses that weren’t following regulations, Curran said.
The county’s marine bureau also was monitoring boats to make sure they are not overloaded and tying up together, Curran said.
The Town of Brookhaven reopened three waterfront areas, not the beaches, for residents to walk, hike and jog, officials announced Friday.
Parking was reduced by half and code enforcement and parks staff were on site to enforce social distancing rules. While officials encouraged outdoor exercise, they emphasized that the areas were open for “passive use only” and no congregating or sporting activity was allowed.
“As far as we know, everything is going well,” town spokesman Jack Krieger said Saturday afternoon. “We haven’t had any reports of problems.”
The Town of Hempstead closed Lido Beach last month due to overcrowding by surfers, but its other beaches remained open with new signs at Point Lookout and lifeguards on duty to tell beachgoers to spread out.
Smithtown spokeswoman Nicole Garguilo said the town was initially worried about high volumes of traffic coming into town parks and beaches on Saturday. But town officials were pleasantly surprised by receiving only 24 complaints, ranging from people calling to report children playing in closed parks to others not following social distancing rules or wearing face coverings.
“It wasn’t as bad as we thought it was going to be. … It’s the first beautiful day, I mean, gorgeous, gorgeous day,” she said. “We expected it to be an absolute nightmare. We totally expected to have hundreds and hundreds of people lined up.”
Although there were “a couple of bad eggs,” Garguilo said the volume was manageable. She cautioned residents to continue to be socially responsible.
Hempstead Supervisor Donald Clavin said Saturday that crowds were following directives and a regional council of all Long Island town supervisors was working on guidelines for beaches, parks and pools to open for the summer.
"I think residents have seen if we don’t work together, we’re going to be forced to close the beach. They don’t want that and we don’t want that. It's nice to have residents focused on health and safety for everyone," Clavin said.
With Dandan Zou