SALISBURY – Gov. Charlie Baker on Thursday ordered the closure – effective midnight Friday – of parking lots at all coastal beach reservations managed by the Department of Conservation and Recreation, including Salisbury Beach State Reservation and Sandy Point on Plum Island, to reduce congestion on state beaches. 

A DCR press release said the gate to Sandy Point, 77 acres on the southern tip of Plum Island, will be closed, barring access to 50 parking spaces. 

The announcement comes as Newbury and Newburyport officials mull ways to prevent crowding on other Plum Island beaches as a way of reducing the spread of COVID-19.

Newburyport Mayor Donna Holaday announced the closure of the North Point parking lot to visitors earlier this week while Newbury Emergency Management Director Michael Reilly said he was considering similar restrictions to ensure people don't flock to the Newbury portion of Plum Island beaches when warmer temperatures return.

Salisbury Town Manager Neil Harrington could not be reached for comment on his town's plan for its beaches, apart from the state-controlled portion.

A large portion of beach on Plum Island is within the Parker River National Wildlife Refuge. That beach and all boardwalks except at Parking Lot 1, which provide beach access, were closed April 1 to protect nesting piping plovers.  

In making the announcement Thursday, the DCR said even though parking lots will be closed, the coastal beaches would be open "to pedestrians for transitory use," such as walking, jogging, biking and "solitary fishing." 

The state said some seasonal state parks will open early and others will expand access "to provide additional open space opportunities for residents to enjoy and alternatives to popular state parks throughout the commonwealth."

None of the parks listed are on the North Shore. Expanded openings will include state parks in Hopkinton, Hingham, Natick and Feeding Hills. Early openings are planned at state forests or parks in West Townsend, Ashland, Rutland, Gardner and Pittsfield. 

The DCR’s agency-owned ice rinks, visitor centers, campgrounds, playgrounds, fitness, athletic fields, athletic courts, golf courses and bathrooms will remain closed until at least May 4.

The state is also limiting the number of parking spaces available at certain high-visitation state parks. The DCR stressed that if a park is crowded, visitors should consider visiting another site or returning at a later date or time. 

To centralize COVID-19 updates that affect the state parks system, the department recently developed a Massachusetts State Parks COVID-19 Updates webpage: www.mass.gov/info-details/massachusetts-state-parks-covid-19-update.

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