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WVPE News

Michigan Beaches Prepare In Case Coronavirus Crisis Continues Through Summer

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Jennifer Weingart / WVPE Public Radio
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Beaches around the world are usually busy in warmer weather, that can be dangerous during a pandemic. Some beach towns in Southwest Michigan are preparing to stay safe in case the coronavirus crisis continues through summer.

Officials from Berrien County and the City of St. Joseph say they expect some social distancing restrictions to still be in place by summer but it’s hard to predict.

They’re watching for any new orders from Governor Gretchen Whitmer before making decisions regarding the beaches.

Greg Grothous is with the parks and recreation department in St. Joe. He says between beach erosion and now the coronavirus, Memorial Day weekend might not have the same financial boost as past years.

“We don’t have the beach that people were used to over the last five to seven years when they come to St. Joe, and now you throw this into the mix," he says. "I have to think that it will have an impact on tourism.”

Brian Bailey, the Berrien County Parks Director, says the best advice for people planning beach trips in advance is to be flexible.

“There may be parks that are open or with very limited facilities, there may be parks that need to close because of overcrowding.”

Lions Park, Tiscornia Park, and Silver Beach are currently open with some restrictions. Officials are closely monitoring to make sure people are following social distancing guidelines and not gathering in large groups. 

Ron Olson is the chief of parks and recreation for the Michigan DNR. He says right now, all state beaches are open with some restrictions but it’s a quickly evolving situation.

“It really depends on the corporation of the public," Olson says. "If we observe large gatherings of people that are not following the requirements of social distancing, we could further restrict the utilization of areas or even close them.” 

State parks are already seeing an increase in people hiking and Olson expects beachgoers once the water warms up.

Contact Annacaroline at acaruso@wvpe.org or follow her on Twitter at @AnnacarolineC16

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