Beaches in Dewey will remain closed to dog walking and exercising, despite loosening restrictions announced in South Bethany and Ocean City, Mayor Dale Cooke said May 6.
“My thought is, you either keep the beaches completely open or completely closed,” Cooke said. “A partial opening would be too difficult to enforce. It would entail more income and more employees than Dewey has.”
Cooke said lieutenant lifeguards are patrolling the beach in Gator ATVs to inform people beaches are closed, which he said is easy to enforce for now.
“But a partially open beach in Dewey would lead to a fully open beach,” Cooke said. “I can’t foresee a way to enforce relaxed restrictions.”
Cooke said unlike other beach towns, Dewey Beach has no public parking lots to close. Streets with beach access can’t be closed because they are residential streets.
The town has also hired fewer seasonal police - 16 rather than 20 - due to budget constraints, Cooke said. Lifeguards have been hired in the event beaches open, but have been told they are not guaranteed full-time work.
“I’m not going to put out any regulations the town doesn’t have the manpower to enforce,” Cooke said. “We won’t have the money to pay everyone this year. Like every business, we rely on projected income and right now the projected income is not good.”
The town has a $3.5 million budget, and Cooke said he anticipates at least a $1 million loss, more or less depending on when beaches open.
“I hope we can open sooner rather than later,” he said. “The town will survive, but a lot of our businesses and residential renters won’t. People are worried about it right now. As soon as it’s safely possible, I’d like to say, let’s open those damn beaches.”