CENTREVILLE —The Queen Anne’s County Commissioners voted at their June 23 meeting to implement operational changes at certain county beaches due to public health and sanitation concerns. Due to a compelling interest to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 from other regions with higher infection rates and the lack of sufficient restroom and sanitation capacity, Matapeake Beach, and the beaches located at Terrapin and Ferry Point Nature Preserve will be restricted to county residents beginning July 1.
Commissioners agreed to this operational change due to significant overcrowding that has “taxed the limited sanitation facilities and the inability for patrons to practice appropriate social distancing.” Queen Anne’s County Health Officer, Dr. Joseph Ciotola recommended this as the best way to keep county residents safe and limit exposure, they said.
Steve Chandlee, Parks and Recreation director, stated, “As the region enters into different phases of the pandemic recovery plan, our number of visitors have skyrocketed beyond anything we have experienced before. 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.”
“This was not an action the commissioners took lightly, but we have an obligation to protect the health of our citizens. We will monitor this closely and look forward to the day when we can safely enjoy these areas with our neighbors from around the state,” said County Commissioner Chris Corchiarino.
In July, the county will have staff on site each weekend to verify proof of residency, reinforce the rules, pick up trash and close the parking lots when capacity has been reached. These restrictions have been narrowly tailored to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 and will remain in effect only while Queen Anne’s County remains in the recovery phase of COVID-19. Plans are also in the works to provide additional facilities and resources to increase capacities for visitors in the future.
The commissioners also addressed concerns with overcrowding and a high noise level reported by community residents at Romancoke and Matapeake fishing piers which have been open 24 hours a day. Concerns ranged from loud music, swimming, persons yelling, fishing too close to a private boats and illegal parking.
Starting July 1, the fishing piers will be open from dawn until dusk daily. 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.