Edward Fielding via shutterstock
Long Island Sound (Edward Fielding via shutterstock)

With Memorial Day weekend approaching, the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection issued guidance Wednesday for how to approach visits to state parks, beaches and forests.

The state never closed its parks, beaches and forests, but it warned that it will close them if they reach capacity, which has happened more frequently as the weather gets nicer.

The restrictions that the parks have operated under, such as daily capacity limits, social distancing guidelines for visitors, and use of face coverings, will remain in place.

Along with the governors of New York, New Jersey, and Delaware, Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont announced that Connecticut will open beaches on Friday, May 22.

Swimming will be allowed, but only at shoreline state parks. Swimming at inland state parks will still be prohibited because of the potential for on-shore crowding, not a concern of risk of transmission in freshwater.

The Department of Public Health has said that swimming is not a known form of transmission of COVID-19.

It is DEEP’s assessment at this time that shoreline parks that feature beaches, operating under limited capacity, can safely accommodate visitors on beaches, provided they follow recommended social distancing guidelines. Visitors to the beaches will be asked to maintain 15’ of space from other beachgoers (blanket-to-blanket).  This distance will allow for a 6’ radius around each person or family and a 3’ walkway in between groups.

Also no lifeguards will be on shoreline beaches early in the season.  These beaches are currently posted as “No Lifeguards on Duty.”  It is expected that shoreline beaches will begin lifeguarding when adequate staffing, training, and safety practices meeting DEEP standards are in place.

In addition, the boardwalk at Hammonasset Beach State Park and the boardwalk connector from the parking lot at Silver Sands State Park are closed.

There will also be no restrooms open at any of these state parks so residents are encouraged to choose a location close to home.

“Visitors should not expect that restroom buildings will be open, but most locations will have portable toilets available,” according to a press release from the agency.

The DEEP warned that limited swimming capacity at state parks, combined with restrictions made by municipalities around the swimming areas, mean that residents will have to plan beach and swimming excursions well in advance, and be ready with a back-up plan if their first choice is closed.

Camping will be unavailable at state campgrounds until at least June. 12.

All campground reservations that were made for stays prior to June 12 will automatically be cancelled and refunds will be processed.