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What are the new rules for Mass. beaches? Here’s what state guidance says

Craigville Beach on Cape Cod, as pictured on May 12.
Craigville Beach on Cape Cod, as pictured on May 12.Suzanne Kreiter/Globe staff

Governor Charlie Baker on Monday released specific details on what his four-phase reopening plan for Massachusetts entails.

With the weather warming up, some are sure to welcome news that Baker’s plan will allow beaches to reopen starting Monday, May 25 — which also happens to be Memorial Day.

Here’s a look at the guidance the state put out for both managers and beach-goers alike.

The following is a plain text version of the PDF above:


From: Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs

Date: May 18, 2020

Subject: Beaches Guidelines for Managers


The following are safety and re-opening standards for the management and use of coastal and inland beaches in the Commonwealth for Phase 1 of the Commonwealth’s Reopening.


All beach managers and visitors should adopt the specific guidelines outlined herein. Property specific guidelines should be posted at entrance points to beach areas and on relevant social media/websites. Guidelines provided herein apply to all inland and coastal beaches unless otherwise specified.

This guidance will apply until amended or rescinded. Any questions regarding this guidance can be sent to outdoor.recreation@mass.gov.

DPH Orders and Guidelines

Face Coverings and Masks: All beach visitors shall comply with COVID-19 Order 31: Order Requiring Face Coverings in Public Places Where Social Distancing is Not Possible. The order requires any person over the age of 2, whether indoors or outdoors, to wear a face covering or mask when they cannot maintain 6 feet of distance between themselves and others, unless they have a medical condition preventing them from doing so (see further guidance here: https://www.mass.gov/info-details/covid-19-state-of-emergency). Masks are not required to be worn while swimming.

Group Size: No groups larger than 10 are allowed to gather. https://www.mass.gov/doc/march31-2020-assemblage-guidance/download.

Coastal and Inland Beaches – Manager and User Guidelines for Parking and Capacity


- To allow for adequate social distancing for ingress, egress, and transit across the beach, beach capacity should be managed to accommodate a minimum of 12 ft distance between toweling/beach blanket groups

- Parking lots, people entering the beach or other factors should be managed, if necessary, to limit beach capacity to accommodate adequate social distancing based on an assessment by the beach manager.

- Loading and unloading times for people and personal items at drop off areas should be limited, where possible. No loitering, tailgating.

- Picnic areas should be closed if social distancing cannot be maintained and sanitization cannot be performed between use.

User Guidelines

- Beach visitors are required to maintain social distancing of at least 6 feet or more at all times and visitors should maintain at least 12 ft minimum distance between toweling/beach blanket areas.

- Organized ball games should not be allowed activity including, but not limited to, volleyball, Kan Jam, spikeball, football, soccer, Kadima, and bocce.

- Beach visitors shall abide by social distancing standards for bathroom lines and follow any established visual guidelines for maintaining a 6’ distance in all restroom facilities.

- A minimum distance of 6 feet shall be maintained between lifeguards and between the public and lifeguard stands unless in the case of an emergency.

Over Sand Vehicle (OSV) Coastal Beaches

- Capacity for OSV beaches should be calculated by beach manager.

- Methodology for calculating beach capacity of OSV’s should account for at least one car length (15 to 20 feet) between vehicles at high tide.


- Capacity for OSV should be clearly outlined and signed for potential users and made available on social media.

- Activities on OSV beaches should follow guideline of Beach Activities listed above.


- A minimum distance of 6 feet should be maintained between lifeguards, the public and lifeguard stands except in the case of an emergency.

Admissions/Contact Stations/Rentals

- Admission/entry transactions are encouraged, where possible should be carried out through a no contact process such as online reservations, timed-ticketing, permit/sticker issuance or an on-site electronic transaction method that allows for social distancing guidelines to be followed. If not feasible, hand transactions and cash may be allowed.

- Any necessary visitors-staff interactions, whether in a vehicle or on foot, should be in accordance with social distancing.

- If renting equipment, all equipment must be cleaned and disinfected between use. If items cannot be properly disinfected, rental should not be allowed. Masks and snorkels should not be rented.

Restrooms, Comfort Stations, Showers

- Managers should ensure that users can abide by social distancing standards for bathroom lines and follow any established visual guidelines for maintaining a 6’ distance in all restroom facilities.

- In advance of the initial opening of public restrooms, the managing entity should adhere to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines pertaining to the cleaning and disinfection standards for interior spaces and that social distancing can be maintained.

- The managing entity should have the facilities cleaned at least once daily by staff and perform deep cleaning and disinfection services at least once per week and should follow the EEA COVID-19 Outdoor Recreation Facility Restroom Cleaning Best Practices.


- Composting (clivus or similar) toilets should be permanently closed and should be replaced with temporary (seasonal) portable restrooms with daily cleanings.

- Restroom facilities should contain adequate hand washing and/or sanitizer stations.

- Indoor shower facilities and changing facilities will remain closed in Phase 1.

- Water fountains and water refill stations will remain closed in Phase 1.

Food Service, Concessions, and Vending

- Food service shall follow all applicable food service and restaurant protocols and guidelines. Food service must be limited to take-out in Phase 1.

Trash Disposal and Management

- Trash disposal at beaches is available to the discretion of the city or town it is located in and/or the managing organization.

- Visitors of beaches should expect limited or no trash disposal receptacles. When visiting beaches without trash receptacles, visitors should adhere to a strict “carry in, carry out” policy and take waste with them.

- Where trash receptacles are available for normal use, beach managers should where feasible, provide no touch, lidless trashcans.

Shuttle Service to Beach Facilities

- Shuttle services to the beach are closed in Phase 1.

Jaclyn Reiss can be reached at jaclyn.reiss@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter: @JaclynReiss