The City of Lewes has closed access to its two public beach parking lots March 21 in anticipation of a statewide closure of beaches.
City staff was out early March 22 placing barriers to prevent drivers from entering the lots. A Lewes police officer was sitting at the entrance of the main beach about 10 a.m.
“We are taking proactive steps closing our Beach 1 and 2 parking lots and all city-owned public restrooms now,” said Mayor Ted Becker.
Becker clarified March 22 that the beaches remain open for walking dogs and exercise.
This comes on the heels of Gov. John Carney’s visit to Cape Henlopen State Park March 20, where he was greeted with a lot of activity on the 80-degree day.
“We're a little concerned as [we] went out to the beach about the social distancing that was or wasn't taking place there, and we'll have to have further discussion about that,” Carney said March 20. “Part of the reason for coming here was also to see what the interaction looks like on the beach and here in the park.”
Carney declared a state of emergency March 13, limiting crowds to 100 or fewer. However, before St. Patrick's Day, Carney said, too many bars in Wilmington, Newark and Dewey Beach were serving large crowds, so he reduced the public gathering limit to 50 people or fewer.
City Manager Ann Marie Townsend said in an email to the community: “Unfortunately, many have not heeded the recommendations for social distancing that is necessary to flatten the curve. While a walk, bike ride, or run may be perfectly healthy especially now, congregating in parks or on our trails will contribute to spread of the virus. Allowing children to play on our playground equipment is not safe at this time. The virus can live on these surfaces for a long time, more easily transmitting the virus. We will be monitoring our parks and trails, and if we observe gatherings of people, we may need to consider closures.”
Dewey Beach Mayor TJ Redefer announced March 21 that all public access to town beaches is closed until further notice.
“Unfortunately, far too many have not followed the recommendations for social distancing that is needed to flatten the curve,” Redefer said. “While a walk around town and on our beaches is a healthy activity, congregating in large groups will encourage the spread of COVID-19. It is our hope that this proactive action helps in some small way to protect the people of our town and our great state.”
Rehoboth Beach officials have closed the Boardwalk and beach too. The March 21 announcement comes after a closure of all other municipal facilities to the general public March 17.
“We fully understand Gov. Carney’s decision to close the beaches,” said Rehoboth Beach Mayor Paul Kuhns in a prepared statement. “This move is for the health and safety of all our citizens.”
Both Dewey and Rehoboth have closed the beaches and Boardwalk to all activity, including dog walking and exercising.
Reporters Melissa Steele, Ellen Driscoll and Chris Flood contributed to this report.