ROCKPORT — A new round of coronavirus-related restrictions has been put in place in Rockport.

Starting at noon on Saturday:

*All beaches and parks in town, and Bearskin Neck, will be open to residents only.

*All dogs will be required to be on a leash on beaches and in parks. Wooded areas are excused from this regulation.

The decision was made Saturday morning during an emergency Board of Selectmen meeting held on the online video conferencing service Zoom. Town Administrator Mitch Vieira, police Chief John Horvath, Assistant Police Chief Mark Schmink, Public Works Director Joe Parisi, Acting Assistant Public Works Director Gary LeBlanc and Treasurer Carrie Arnaud were logged on to the meeting as well. Selectmen hoped to put the restrictions out before weekend crowds picked up downtown.

Discussions around these latest restrictions began on Thursday during a telecom meeting with the Board of Health. Members expressed concern that enough wasn’t being done to enforce social distancing downtown, especially in the tight corridors around Bearskin Neck.

During Saturday morning's meeting, Vieira also outlined a set of administrative actions that will be enforced for the time being.

* Town Hall and Town Hall Annex parking lots will be closed during weekends.

* The Seaview Street and Pebble Beach parking lots will be closed indefinitely.

* Parking will be restricted on Granite Street by Halibut Point State Park in conjunction with recent restrictions put in place by the state Department of Conservation & Recreation and Environmental Police.

* Seasonal floats will not be installed, per recommendation of the Harbormaster office.

* The Granite Pier boat ramp will only be open for appointments or emergencies.

* Additional ramps and stairs will be installed around Long Beach to further direct foot traffic.

“I think (these actions) set the tone that Rockport is just not open yet,” said Selectwoman Sarah Wilkinson during the meeting. “This is kind of a first step. … We really don’t want to close the beaches, but if we have to, we have to.

"We can’t take any chances, we can’t mess around, so hopefully this will cut (crowds) down enough that we don’t have to do that. But Mitch has done a great job with his messaging so far that you have to social distance," she continued. "Even though we put parameters in, people still have personal responsibility.”

Rockport joins Manchester in restricting access to town beaches during the coronavirus pandemic. On March 22, Manchester closed down all its beaches, as well as its parks, recreational spaces, and associated parking lots. Rockport previously shut down its outdoor recreational spaces on March 13.

Michael Cronin may be contacted at 978-675-2708, or mcronin@gloucestertimes.com.

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