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Fun In The Sand

Beaches Permitted To Open Statewide This Week

Visitors are pictured enjoying summer weather at Long Point State Park beach on Tuesday afternoon. Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced that beaches will be allowed to reopen to the public Friday. P-J photo by Jay Young

Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced recently that beaches would be allowed to reopen Friday as part of an initial easing of COVID-19 restrictions.

The order states that capacity must be limited to no more than 50% of normal, prohibits group activities and requires picnic areas and playgrounds to stay closed. Local municipal leaders are taking individual approaches to their own beach management, while trying to comply with public health regulations and broad state mandates.

Barcelona Harbor Beach in Westfield has been in use during the coronavirus shutdown, but the area includes a mixture of public paths, open spaces and small parks in addition to beachfront.

“The town owns almost 9 acres along the waterfront and along Chautauqua Creek,” said Westfield Town Supervisor Martha Bills. “We also have street ends that go to the water, we have three of those. Those have kind of been developed into almost little pocket parks. We don’t have any kind of personnel. It has really been more like a park or a trail along there.”

Barcelona includes a small kiosk with signs that display social distancing regulations, and is set in an area that includes a mix of town property, private property, a pier, fishing areas and an unclaimed stretch of beach that has formed in recent years. Bills said that because there has never been any swimming allowed or staff present, the town has treated the area as a public space, similar to Long Point State Park, which has remained in use.

Lakewood beach is pictured during July of 2017. P-J file photo

“We kind of considered it in the same way, that it was just an open area where people could go for a walk or whatever,” Bills said. “A lot of people have taken advantage of it — families and people taking walks, just enjoying being outside. They have followed the guidelines pretty well; we haven’t had any difficulties.”

Kelly Brown, harbor master, said that foot traffic around Barcelona Beach was steady on sunny Wednesday afternoon.

“There’s probably a dozen over there right now. Most of them, it is just an adult with a couple of kids, like a family group that have been together the whole time,” Brown said. “There are signs all over saying no lifeguards, no swimming allowed, but people walk right by them all the time.”

The New York State Parks Department said on its website that Friday’s reopening is specifically for swimming at beaches, which has never been permitted at Barcelona.

The Lakewood Village Board issued a resolution not to open its beach at Hartley Park this season on April 13, but that decision was reached after considering a number of different issues.

“We did it when we did it is because we would have had to hire lifeguards at that time in order to get them trained to be on our beaches,” Mayor Randy Holcomb said. “We basically made the decision for financial reasons, plus we would have had to hire the lifeguards at that meeting. There were no applicants. We didn’t have anybody in mind, and the people from last year were unavailable.”

Poor water quality near the beach was another reason for the decision.

Holcomb wanted to remind residents that Hartley Park remains open, and that COVID-19 restrictions were not the initial reason for closing the beach, although they were considered.

Similarly, Bemus Point beach has been closed for several years due to financial considerations. Mayor Bryan Dahlberg said that the beach located at Long Point State Park filled the need for summertime visitors to the village.

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