I am grateful to announce that Madison has no new COVID-19 cases over the past week, and has only 5 active cases out of 161 in total. As we watch national trends continue in a different direction, we should be cautiously proud of our current status. Let’s protect our state and town from resurgence by continuing to exercise social distancing, wearing masks in public when distancing is not possible, and washing hands frequently.
Throughout this entire public health emergency, our goal has been to implement policies that will protect the health and safety of our community while staying within legal mandates issued by State Government. This includes the policies for our beaches, where we are seeing a dramatic increase in car and foot traffic. This is primarily driven by significant parking restrictions at Hammonasset State Park and a growing number of people in our region who are choosing "staycations" in our local communities. The Governor’s recent pause on the roll-out of Phase 3, coupled with new quarantine restrictions for travelers, has compelled many people to find recreation options closer to home - they are choosing Madison’s beaches as an alternative.
The Town is tracking this and, over the last week, saw a sizable increase in the number of cars being turned away at our beach gates, which ultimately resulted in an influx of people parking on side streets and walking into our facilities. In particular last Sunday, East Wharf was approaching a visitor level that made social distancing problematic. I was there and witnessed it.
In light of these changing circumstances and in order to ensure a safe environment for beach goers going forward, we will be implementing a number of new initiatives:
- Establishing visitor capacity restrictions at East and West Wharf Beaches. The Beach & Recreation Department will be closely monitoring car and pedestrian traffic into these facilities, and observing social distancing on the beach. Once capacity has been reached and social distancing can no longer be maintained, the Town will close the beach gate to any new entrants by car or on foot for a period of at least 30 minutes. After 30 minutes, staff will re-evaluate the situation and determine whether additional people can be allowed to enter the beach facility. Please note that this may mean residents arriving by car, bike, or on foot, might be turned away at times during peak hours. Make your beach plans accordingly.
- Increasing enforcement of on-street parking restrictions on streets surrounding East and West Wharf. Many residents have noted that people have been illegally parking on side roads near East Wharf, creating a public safety hazard. Beginning this weekend, we will be increasing signage as well as tightening enforcement of current no parking policies on East Wharf Rd. and Madison Avenue. Over the next week, a special task force that includes the Madison Police Department, the Board of Police Commissioners, and Public Works will evaluate and revise parking policies and signage in these neighborhoods to ensure parking rules are being followed and public road safety is maintained. If you live in the affected area and are having issues with on-street parking, please email my office at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will share it with the task force.
- Extending Executive Order that Limits Beach Parking to Residents Only on Weekends/ Holidays to September 9th. To be consistent with the Governor’s State of Public Health Emergency which expires September 9th and given we have a potential threat of resurgence in our area, I will be establishing Executive Order #6 which extends the expiration date from July 31st to September 9th of the resident only parking policy at our beaches on weekends and holidays.
- Limiting the number of non-resident daily passes sold. Although non-resident parking passes are currently only available Monday through Thursday, we are anticipating an increase in mid-week closures at Hammonasset. This may result in an unsafe level of visitor volume during the week at our smaller beaches. We will therefore be limiting the sale of non-resident parking passes on Monday - Thursday to a number that maintains safe visitor volume at our facilities.
Finally, I would like to assure the public that our gate staff is strictly enforcing all beach parking sticker requirements. Please note that our town has many summer property owners with out-of-state license plates who are eligible as tax payers or long-term renters to buy a beach parking sticker. Daily guest passes are only available to non-residents Monday through Thursday as per Executive Order.
We ask the public for your continued patience and understanding as we work through these unprecedented, stressful times. We aspire to deliver to the public a safe and enjoyable beach going experience despite challenging circumstances. However, we are also doing this at a time when the goal posts keep shifting by forces outside of our control; this includes national trends and state public health directives and policies. We will continually evaluate and update our policies to address both community and public health concerns as they evolve in this fluid situation.
We are all in this together as a community. Let’s stay safe and healthy Madison.