The first inkling of reopening in the state came in a Wednesday announcement by Gov. Larry Hogan (R) that some additional recreational activities were allowed beginning Thursday morning.
Playgrounds at St. Mary’s parks reopened Thursday at 7 a.m., and park staff will be on watch for social distancing violations, Arthur Shepherd, director of St. Mary’s recreation and parks, said in a phone interview. Golf and waterfront parks, which require more staff, will likely reopen over the weekend.
Hogan had announced that “lower-risk outdoor activities, including golf, tennis, boating, fishing, camping and others,” such as horseback riding and hunting as well as walking, swimming and exercise at state beaches, would now be allowed, giving local governments leeway to set their own rules in their parks.
Shepherd said St. Mary’s parks would need some gap time to reopen anything requiring staffing, including the Wicomico Shores Golf Course and waterfront parks, noting they would “most likely” reopen over the weekend.
“Anything with fees, staff, we’ll need a couple of days to get that together,” he said.
Privately owned golf clubs are reopening, like Breton Bay Golf and Country Club in Leonardtown, which opened to members only today, allowing them to book before opening to the public for the weekend, according to the club’s golf director, Bob Arnold.
At the county’s public parks, playgrounds and tennis courts reopening will be the main change.
“Playgrounds will be open, there’s more informal play, it’s actually not that much, but what you’ll have is more people out,” Shepherd said. “Once you have the governor saying that you’ll be able to do these things, you’re going to have more people coming out. So we’ll keep an eye on that.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention informed park directors that playgrounds do not require disinfection, Shepherd said, but should be routinely cleaned. The main issue with playgrounds is social distancing, according to Shepherd, and park staff will be keeping a close eye on gatherings.
“With playgrounds, [you need] social distancing, you have children gathering,” he said.
At the state level, which includes the Greenwell, Point Lookout, St. Mary’s River, Newtowne Neck and St. Clements Island state parks, the Maryland Department of Natural Resources released guidance Wednesday noting that as of 7 a.m. on Thursday, walking, jogging, running, swimming and fishing will be allowed at beaches, as long as social distancing is followed. Chairs, blankets and picnics on beaches are still not permitted.
For the most part, close contact recreation must be with immediate family members or roommates.
Recreational boaters “must be with immediate family members or people with which they reside,” according to the DNR, with only 10 people allowed on the vessel, and boats cannot dock at commercial restaurants or bars. Marinas are also permitted to reopen, according to the DNR’s guidance. Boats, like people, must also stay 10 feet apart.
Fishermen must follow social distancing guidelines on piers, and may only fish on a boat with family members or people they reside with.
Organized events, like fishing tournaments, equestrian races and boat races are still prohibited, according to the DNR.
Hogan also authorized health care providers to provide elective procedures on Wednesday, noting that the state is now well supplied on protective equipment, eliminating that concern.