CENTREVILLE, Md. (WJZ) — Queen Anne’s County officials are set to restrict the county’s beaches and fishing piers to county residents only starting July 1 due to public health and sanitation concerns.
The county commissioners voted to make this change at the June 23 meeting because they want to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 from other regions and due to the lack of sufficient restroom and sanitation capacity. However, commissioners are still reviewing their new policy.
Matapeake Beach and the beaches located at Terrapin and Ferry Point Nature Preserve will be restricted to Queen Anne’s County residents beginning July 1.
Commissioners sited significant overcrowding and the inability of patrons to practice social distancing.
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“As the region enters into different phases of the Pandemic Recovery Plan, our number of visitors have skyrocketed beyond anything we have experienced before,” Steve Chandlee, the county’s director of parks and recreation, said. “Our county venues are attracting people from Delaware, Virginia, Washington D.C. and we are not able to manage the current and necessary protocols to maintain a social distancing and provide adequate sanitary facilities at this time.”
County Commissioner Chris Corchiarino said officials will monitor the situation closely to guide further decisions.
“This was not an action the Commissioners took lightly, but we have an obligation to protect the health of our citizens,” Corchiarino said.
Visitors from outside the county were disappointed with the decision.
“I can see where they would want to restrict it, but it is outdoors,” said Chris Reichel, who drives to visit the beach from Silver Spring about twice a year with her husband. “It should be open to anybody.”
Donna Flythe from Wicomico County called the beach a “jewel” in the community. She said the county would be better served by limiting the number of visitors than putting restrictions on people based on where they live.
“It’s summertime… It should be open for everybody,” she said.
Queen Anne’s Co officials are concerned about the number of visitors at local beaches including Matapeake. They voted to limit them to local residents during the pandemic. We expect an update today. @wjz ⬇️ A busy Matapeake Beach 🏖 pic.twitter.com/ubVbkoeCTZ
— Mike Hellgren (@HellgrenWJZ) June 29, 2020
Staff on site each weekend will have to verify proof of residency, reinforce the rules, pick up trash and close the parking lots when capacity is reached.
County officials also said there’s been a high noise level and overcrowding reported at Romancoke and Matapeake fishing piers, which currently are open 24 hours a day.
Loud music, swimming after dark, yelling, illegal parking and fishing too close to private boats have all been reported. The piers will no longer be open 24 hours.
Starting July 1, the piers will only been open from dawn until dusk. Park Rangers will be onsite to close the parking lots once capacity has been reached, reinforce rules, pick up trash and make sure the picnic area is closed at sunset.
For more information on our parks and beaches, visit qac.org and type parks in the search bar.