By MIKE DONOGHUE
Islander Staff Writer
Golf courses can have limited re-openings for Vermonters, but campgrounds, marinas and beaches are expected to remain closed under statewide COVID-19 orders, Gov. Phil Scott said last Wednesday.
The news at Scott’s new conference was not good for Grand Isle County, which relies heavily on sports enthusiasts, tourists and day trippers to fuel the local summer economy.
“Campgrounds, marinas and beaches shall not be opened at this time,” Scott wrote in his latest directive, which went into effect on last Thursday. His new directive “Play Smart and Play Safe” updates his original “Stay Home, Stay Safe.”
Scott acknowledged marinas have been open in recent days to help launch boats. That was allowed when the state allowed certain work sites to have two-member crews return to their jobs. However, Scott said his latest Executive Order still wants the full marina businesses to remain closed.
Under questioning by The Islander, Scott did say that he believed that “in the next week or so” campgrounds and marinas could be opened in some format. In the meantime, state and private campgrounds must remain shut.
It was unclear when beaches and swimming pools would be approved.
Scott said it was important for Vermont to pace itself and not take too many steps at once.
The Governor also gave the green light for small groups of Vermonters leaving their homes for outdoor recreation and fitness activities with low or no direct physical contact.
He said inter-household socializing also can now begin. He suggested members of one household may gather – and allow children to play – with members of another trusted household. The second home can be another relative or a trusted neighbor that has been following the health guidelines.
The group of 10 or less must follow the usual health and safety precautions now in effect, Scott said.
Vermonters age of 65 or older, as well as those with pre-existing health conditions, are recommended to remain at home for the time being, Scott said.
The Governor said he does prefer the social interactions and gatherings be outside to ensure greater physical distancing.
The Governor and Agency of Natural Resources Secretary Julie Moore were hesitant to allow organized youth sports for basketball, Little League, softball or other youth activities. Adult recreation leagues also are out.
Moore said playing toss in a field or working on athletic skills are acceptable with small numbers.
During Scott’s news conference, which is broadcast live on three TV stations and available on local access TV, Moore urged people to avoid popular sites and go to less known, less populated locations.
Moore told Vermonters to avoid several high profile attractions, including two major tourists attractions for the Champlain Islands: the Sand Bar State Park on the Milton/South Hero town line and the Colchester Causeway, which is used by bicyclists, runners, and walkers to get to South Hero.
She did note that fishing is one activity that allows for social distancing and can be done with friends.
Golf and More
The new guidelines urge Vermonters participating in outdoor recreation and fitness activities to “arrive, play and leave.” There should be no congregating before or after activities, including no tailgating, Scott said.
Scott said both signs and new registration procedures should be adopted that reinforce outdoor facilities are open only to Vermonters and those who have met the 14-day quarantine requirement.
He also said golf courses should eliminate services or transactions that result in touch points and/or staff-customer interactions that are not absolutely necessary.
Recreational sites also need to reduce high contact surfaces and common areas, including closing waiting areas, removing picnic tables, closing play structures, and offering only rental equipment that can and will be thoroughly disinfected between users.
Facilities are urged to close pro shops, lobbies, bars and restaurants that encourage congregating of people and personal contact. In some cases, curbside pick-up or delivery could be instituted.
Restroom facilities may be opened only if they can be regularly cleaned and disinfected.