Want to Visit? Not a Good Time

covid-parks-lower6

Cape May, NJ – Set against the deep blue water, the message near a Delaware Bay beach entrance couldn’t be any clearer: “Parks and beaches closed. Please stay home.” The advice is directed at both visitors and residents alike.

In a different lifetime at the shore – a couple of months ago – the words would have been unfathomable. Not now. With the COVID-19 pandemic pressing in, every municipality in Cape May County, from Cape May Point to Ocean City, has shut down its beaches and boardwalks.

Cape May County and local towns have also prohibited vacation rentals and hotel stays through various dates.

Now is not the time, mayors say, for a getaway at the Jersey shore.

covid-parks-lower2

In Lower Township, new orange netting stretches across all of the paths leading to the bay, blocking access. Delaware Bay beaches had been the last hold out for determined surfers and beach walkers. The township threatens to prosecute anyone who ignores the no-trespassing order.

Parks Too

Beaches are not the only restricted areas. New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy closed all state parks and forests this week to stop people from congregating. He said too many visitors mingled in groups instead of keeping their distance. They still didn’t get the social distancing message.

The Governor’s order includes Cape May Point State Park and the Higbee Beach Wildlife Management Area, both on Cape Island.

covid-parks-higbee4

Yellow police tape roped off Higbee’s parking lots yesterday. The nature preserve’s forest paths and beach are off limits to the public until further notice. The closures affect not only beach walkers.

Spring Birding

April starts spring bird migration. Thousands of warblers flying north stop at Higbee every year. The good birding draws thousands of birders from across the country. They fill the trails, hoping to see an unusual species or two mixed in with the crowd of regulars. But this spring, it looks like you’ll need wings to visit Higbee.

covid-parks-higbee

Everything’s Closed

Police tape and orange netting have become as common as salt water taffy. Shops and restaurants, with the exception of a few takeout places, have been shuttered for weeks.

Is there no place spared from this spate of closings meant to keep us safe from the coronavirus and each other?

The short answer? No.

covid-parks-sunset

Not even Sunset Beach.

Only a beaten-down shell of the old faithful Concrete Ship rises above the water these days. But people still like to look at it. They come to gaze at the bay and walk on the beach, picking up pebbles and Cape May diamonds. The parking lot is as far as you can go now. Sunset Beach is closed.

Even the weathered Sunset Grille has yellow police tape blocking its entrance.

covid-parks-sunset2

The manager left a sign for take-out customers looking for an egg sandwich or a cheesesteak.

“Due to the surge in COVID-19, in the interest of our loyal employees, we are suspending operation until further notice.”

The note added, “See you on the other side of the Curve.”

About Jane Kashlak

Jane Kashlak - a journalist, gardener and Cape Island resident - is writing a book.