FAIRFIELD, CT — Fairfield officials took a tentative first step Wednesday toward reopening the town after weeks of closures due to the new coronavirus outbreak when they announced certain recreation areas would be accessible to the public in a limited capacity starting Friday.
“I know you are eager to return to normal, but we have to rely on the guidance of health professionals as we move forward,” First Selectwoman Brenda Kupchick said during a news conference streamed via Facebook and the town website.
Fairfield’s open spaces have been closed since mid March as the virus has spread across Connecticut. As of Wednesday, there were 373 confirmed cases of the new coronavirus in town and 47 Fairfield residents had died after getting the virus, according to state data. However, 157 residents had recovered as of Wednesday, according to Health Department Director Sands Cleary, who said the virus peaked locally around April 14, with new cases and related hospitalizations on the decline since then, leading the town to start gradually lifting recreation restrictions.
“We’re looking to allow people to access our open spaces in a safe way that’s governed by data and not by emotion,” Kupchick said Monday at a Board of Selectmen meeting.
On Friday, the five town beaches on the Long Island Sound will reopen, but group activities and gatherings will not be allowed, nor will beach chairs, blankets or coolers, according to an email Kupchick sent Wednesday to residents. Parking will be limited and available only to town residents with a valid beach sticker from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. at Sasco, Jennings and Southport beaches.
South Benson Marina and Ye Yacht Yard will open Friday as well. Only vehicles with M stickers will be allowed at the marina parking lot, while residents with a valid beach sticker will be able to access Ye Yacht Yard.
Also Friday, Lake Mohegan will reopen, with parking available 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. for those with a beach sticker or other proof of Fairfield residency. Dogs must stay on leash and the cascades lot will be closed.
The H. Smith Richardson Golf Course will remain closed pending construction in the parking lot, but the Carl J. Dickman Par 3 will open Friday with online tee times only. Carts will not be available.
All other parks and open spaces will stay closed, and officials warned residents that the limited reopenings come with conditions.
“We must remember to still practice proper physical distancing,” Chief of Police Christopher Lyddy said, adding people who are vulnerable to the virus should avoid public spaces. “… Please continue to make prudent and cautious decisions.”
Kupchick told selectmen Monday that signs will be posted to remind residents of the proper protocol and said if the public doesn’t follow precautions, the open spaces could be closed again. She said Wednesday police will enforce safety protocol and encouraged residents to wear face coverings and maintain 6 feet between themselves and others. For several weeks in April while recreation areas were closed, people who entered parks and beaches risked a $92 fine and police patrols were dispatched to the areas specifically to enforce the closures.
“This is really about a community response,” Selectwoman Nancy Lefkowitz said Monday. “… The more compliant we are the sooner we will be able to get back to some semblance of normalcy.”
School buildings, businesses and other facilities shuttered due to the virus will stay closed, according to Lyddy.
“This virus is so incredibly contagious and any one of us could have it without symptoms,” Kupchick said Wednesday.