Phased Opening of Parks and Beaches Planned
By Gregory T. Federspiel
Plans are being formulated that will allow residents to start accessing parks and beaches in town while still being mindful of the protocols necessary to avoid spreading the COVID 19 virus. After a lengthy discussion at their meeting last Monday evening, during which a broad spectrum of public opinions were expressed, the Selectmen voted to move forward with a four phased approach: Phase 1: Masco/Tuck’s/Reed minor re-opening; Phase 2: Beaches open to resident walkers only Monday-Friday as well as Tennis Courts open; Phase 3: Expand resident use to 7 days/week; gatherings limited to < 10; bathhouses open but closely monitored and numbers restricted, Chowder House use limited <10; and finally Phase 4: Return to normal.
Phase I begins this weekend with Masconomo and Reed Parks open to residents who would like to walk the grounds and enjoy the views of the harbor. The Masconomo parking lot will be open to residents only (parking sticker required.) Unfortunately, as a high touch structure, the playground remains closed. Also, Tuck’s Point will be partially open to allow access to the floats and harbor as soon as the repairs to the storm damaged ramp is completed, which should be within the week. A small portion of the Tuck’s parking lot will be open to residents and mooring holders. Consistent with Governor Baker’s orders, face coverings are required when the physical distance between people is less than 6 feet and no groups larger than 10 are permitted. Sports activities still are prohibited, and the Reed Park Floats remain closed except for public safety/harbor staff.
Phase 2 will see a partial opening of Town beaches. The Selectmen will announce a date for the start of Phase 2 at their meeting on May 18th. Singing Beach along with White and Black Beaches will be open to residents only and only for walking or running – no sunbathing, picnics, etc. The parking areas will remain closed in this phase and none of the facilities will be open. Under this phase, relatively brief, transient use only is the focus. Again, face coverings are to be warn whenever physical distancing is not possible and when entering/exiting the narrow way to/from the beach. Resident beach tags will be required to enter Singing Beach.
In Phase 3, we plan to extend beach use to 7 days a week, open the parking areas to residents only and open the facilities. Face coverings will likely still be required, group sizes limited to no more than 10 and physical distancing protocols followed. Limits to the numbers allowed on Singing Beach at any one time may have to be imposed if crowds become too large for the space available (which, of course, is tide dependent.) Use of message board signs near Masconomo Park will alert residents in real time whether the beach is full.
Finally, in Phase 4, we will return to normal operations for all parks and beaches in town.
The timing and announcements for each phase are dependent on what is happening locally and in the region with COVID 19 infections, hospitalization rates and how the prior phase has gone. Phase 1 starts this weekend. A decision about Phase 2 is anticipated at the May 18th Selectmen’s meeting. Some fine-tuning of each phase may be required. It is certainly our hope that we can progress steadily at least to Phase 3 without any setbacks but, again, the data regarding COVID 19 will be the determining factor along with how well people can continue to follow the necessary protocols. Certainly, to date, Manchester residents have demonstrated strong adherence to the needed steps to beat back the virus – a laudable effort that has kept people healthy and will serve us well going forward.
As a follow-up to comments made last week about recent intersection work: on the ground conditions required some alterations to the new layouts. The goals of the project – safer pedestrian crossings, improved ADA access, improved aesthetics and no net loss of parking were still all achieved. The specific deviations from the plans are as follows:
Central and School: 1) curb line from School to Central moved 3 feet less into intersection due to an inability to move a catch basin because of a large electrical concrete chase; and 2) landscaped area instead of pavement along Union just before the turn onto School due to elevation differences
Beach and Union: 1) cross walk ramp moved uphill 4’ on the north side of Union due to shallow electrical conduit; 2) crosswalk on east side of Beach move downhill 3’ in order to comply with ADA slope requirements and landing extended straight to existing sidewalk; 3) 2nd sidewalk eliminated on outer edge of Beach and Union curve given change #2, creating larger landscaped area; and 4) curb line along east side of Beach using straight curbing instead of curved curbing. (Even with curved curbing insufficient room for a parking space in this location.)