Thurston Street resident Jim Rowan walked out of his home last week to run an errand only to find a car had illegally parked and blocked his driveway. Since Constitution Beach was closed to parking since April due to the COVID-19 pandemic the perpetrator decided it would be okay to park his in front of Rowan’s driveway.
Afterall, he and his kids were only going to go down the beach for a few hours so what harm could it cause?
Since the weather has warmed Constitution Beach has become an oasis for those that have been stuck in their homes in isolation during the height COVID-19 pandemic.
However, with the beach’s parking lot closed beachgoers had resorted to flooding the surrounding residential streets and the problem of illegal parking got a little out of hand.
Residents like Rowan, John Fanning and Dave Dillon reported that cars would start coming early in the morning, park in fire lanes, block hydrants, park in front of driveways and head to the beach for the day.
“It was getting out of hand,” said Dillon. “Something had to be done or it’s going to be a long summer.”
Residents on Thurston, as well as residents on the other side of Constitution Beach living on Coleridge, Byron and Cowper Streets all flooded Rep. Adrian Madaro’s office with angry phone calls–demanding the Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) reopen the beach to parking.
“I heard the resident loud and clear and worked all last week pressuring DCR to reopen the beach’s parking lot,” said Madaro. “When they closed parking at all DCR beaches from Nahant to Nantasket I was concerned once the warmer weather came it would be a problem here.”
Madaro explained that the blanketed policy by DCR to close beach parking at all DCR run beaches in order to promote social distancing and cut down on large crowds congregating at the beach did not sit well with him.
“We are an urban beach surrounded by a residential neighborhood,” said Madaro. “We are not like Nahant or some beaches on the South Shore. When the parking lot is closed at Constitution Beach beachgoers are simply going to seek parking on residential side streets. For the past two weeks this has caused a headache for many residents living around the beach.”
After a few days of negotiations with the DCR Madaro was finally able to get them to reopen the beach parking lot last Thursday.
“They heard from me, they heard from my constituents and they recognized it was becoming an unmanageable problem around Constitution Beach,” said Madaro. “The police and Boston Transportation Department don’t have the resources to police parking all day on the residential side streets surrounding the beach. I thought it was unfair to tax the police and BTD resources as the problem of illegal parking was growing when the easiest solution was to just reopen the parking lot.”
As for the original intent of promoting social distancing Madaro said closing the beach in April was a necessary step during the COVID-19 surge in April.
“We were getting reports of large crowds gathering, sports being played at the height of the surge,” said Madaro. “That is why the state decided to close parking at state beaches. However, as the state begins to reopen and with the weather warming we really had to re-examine this policy. With or without the parking lot open it seems the same amount of people were heading out and enjoying our neighborhood beach on warm days. The only difference is it was to the detriment of residents living near the beach that had to deal with the overflow of beach parking and illegal parking.”
In a statement the DCR the agency said as of Monday, May 25, 2020, visitors of state coastal beach reservations are now able to engage in transitory and non-transitory/non-contact activities, including swimming and sunbathing, but must adhere to social distancing guidelines.
The agency asks that all park visitors be respectful of local parking rules, posted signage, and other policies to ensure a fun, and safe experience.
• Parking lots, people entering the beach, or other factors should be managed, if necessary, to limit beach capacity to accommodate adequate social distancing based on an assessment by the beach manager;
• Beach visitors are required to maintain social distancing of at least 6 feet or more at all times and visitors should maintain at least 12 ft minimum distance between toweling/beach blanket areas;
• Organized ball games should not be allowed activities, including, but not limited to, volleyball, Kan Jam, spikeball, football, soccer, Kadima, and bocce; and,
• A minimum distance of 6 feet should be maintained between lifeguards, the public and lifeguard stands except in the case of an emergency.