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Maryland state parks less crowded this year; visitors social distancing

The Park Service said they hit capacity less frequently this year than last Memorial Day weekend.

ANNAPOLIS, Md. — Maryland state parks periodically hit capacity during Memorial Day weekend, but the state's park service said they had fewer large crowds than last year.

Excited to leave their homes and enjoy the beautiful weather, visitors headed to state parks through Maryland on Monday, causing some to periodically hit capacity.

The Maryland Park Service said that a total of 12 parks or areas of parks filled to capacity and closed to new visitors over the weekend. In contrast, a spokesperson said last year, they saw 17 closures.

The Park Service said that most of the closures this weekend were relatively brief i.e. less than two hours. And, their busiest beach parks did not fill and close until Monday, when only North Point and Sandy Point closed briefly.

Officials attribute it to the fact that most park visitors are using the trails and simply getting outside, so they are not spending the same amount of time as they would when picnicking and swimming. The water is still relatively cool.

The Maryland Park Service said the capacity at Sandy Point State Park is 4,800 to 5,000 visitors.

Many of the people who traveled to Sandy Point took extra precautions to protect themselves.

“We just [are] like six feet apart, and with our families," Sumir Shrestha said. "All we [are] doing are hand sanitizers and just being cautious of not touching this and that, and just washing our hands and face every time we come from the beach or whatever.”

Shrestha made the trip from Parkville with some of his extended family — faces he hadn't seen in person for two months. They set up camp on the green part of the park (away from the beach) at least 10 feet away from other groups.

He said they hadn't run into issues staying far away from others. The Maryland Park Service also said that they hadn't received reports of any crowd problems.

Many people didn't wear masks when hanging out in their designated areas, but some like Arnay Chase, who traveled from D.C., said they had one on hand in case.

“We brought our masks out," Chase said. "We found our own general area, so we just been staying together as a commodity, as our own commodity.”

Credit: Jess Arnold
The majority of visitors to Sandy Point State Park social distanced on Memorial Day. The Park Service did not report any crowd problems.

The Green family, who were visiting from Crofton, said it was a little more challenging to maintain social distance on the beach than on the lawn.

“It was a little bit hard at first," dad Cason Green said. "You can see there are a lot of people out here enjoying the nice weather. But there is enough room on the back of the sand that you can certainly stay six feet away, and there are not too many people out in the water, since it’s nice and cold, and there’s also some walking paths as well.”

The Maryland Park Service added extra precautions to protect their staff, too, including social distancing recommendations and wearing PPE, like face masks and gloves, when interacting with the public.

They have also developed and implemented enhanced cleaning procedures to provide clean, safe facilities. 

For the public — they published guidelines online they recommend visitors follow, but no specific requirements:

  • Enjoy your beautiful State Parks, however parks are not for social gathering. Parks are for individuals and immediate families at present time. Do not engage in other social gathering in parks. Limit your group to fewer than 10 people and maintain a distance of at least 6 feet from other visitors.
  • Pack extra soap or hand sanitizer to be safe. Please take into consideration the health of others when spending time outdoors.
  • If you are sick or have been sick over the past two weeks, please stay home to recuperate.
  • Avoid popular areas where people may congregate and avoid larger groups, in general. If the parking lot is full when attempting to visit a park, leave and either visit a different approved location, or return home and visit at another time when the park is not busy.
  • Long distance travel is discouraged, unless it is essential. Please visit a park close to your home.

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Credit: Jess Arnold
Some park visitors wore masks at their camp sites on Memorial Day, like Sumir Shrestha (pictured).

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