Port Huron beaches reopen — with restrictions — in time for Memorial Day weekend

Ariana Taylor

Port Huron — Life on Saturday showed some semblance of a pre-coronavirus normal as visitors from all around kicked off the Memorial Day weekend at Port Huron's Lakeside Beach.

Cool breezes blew by, children played on the shore and speedboats were blasting music as they cruised through the water as temperatures peaked around 73 degrees.

However, a few details still contrasted what seemed like a typical beach day in Michigan at the start of the late-May holiday weekend. Plastic wrap was taped over water fountains and showers. Benches were covered with 'Do Not Cross' tape and some beach-goers wore masks. 

After Gov. Gretchen Whitmer on Thursday lifted some restrictions of her stay-home order, Port Huron opened its beaches for the holiday weekend. 

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Groups maintain social distance at Lakeside Park beach.

"We strive to provide a safe environment to our residents so we can continue to keep the parks and beaches open,” said Nancy Winzer, director of Port Huron Parks and Recreation. “We are hoping to have amenities available again as soon as the spread of COVID-19 is no longer an issue."

The Port Huron Recreation Department opened Lakeside and Lighthouse beaches on Thursday with regulations to help limit the spread of COVID-19. The department encouraged patrons to practice social distancing and keep at least six feet between groups, as police frequently passed through the beaches.

"We're just making sure everybody is staying safe and not doing anything bad," said police cadet Allison Cole. "Just follow the governor's orders, keep social distancing, and wear a mask if you can."

While the flow of people coming to and from the beach remained steady, Cole said she expected more people to be out and that it was slower than expected. 

"We just wanted to get out, look at the water, relax, and feel free after a hard week," said Zarek Swilly, 24, of Flint. 

Most amenities at the beach are closed to minimize spreading the virus through commonly touched areas, but people can still sit on the beach or go in the water.

A beach-rules sign is displayed at Lighthouse Beach, Saturday morning, May 23, 2020, as Port Huron beaches are open, including, Lakeside Park beach. Visitors must follow social-distancing and group limit rules.

Grills, picnic tables and benches remain closed, along with splash pads, pavilions, playground equipment, restrooms, and concession stands, though portable toilets were made available.

"We're still doing Big Gretch's work but while doing the social distant thing, we thought it would be nice to visit," said Janet Harris, 48, of Farmington Hills. 

Harris went to Lakeside Beach with her husband and daughter. They all wore masks and made sure to leave some distance between them and others.

Lakeside Beach will be open Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday from 9 a.m. until 7 p.m. Lighthouse Beach will be open Saturday and Sunday from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m.

"We decided to take a nice day this weekend and go somewhere nice," said Carla Strong, 52, of Mount Morris. "We just wanted to put our feet in the sand."

Strong said going to the beach was her first time out of the house besides grocery shopping. 

On Friday, Whitmer extended her stay-home order until June 12 but still allowed a few restrictions to be lifted. The day before, the governor signed an order that reopened retail businesses and auto dealerships by appointment only.

Effective May 29, previously nonessential medical, dental and veterinary procedures will be allowed to resume. Whitmer's order from Thursday also allows for small gatherings of 10 people or less as long as participants practice social distancing.

As part of her plans to gradually reopen the state, restaurants and retail stores reopened Friday in parts of Northern Michigan as well as the Upper Peninsula.

Sydney Vlaminck, passes the closed park bathrooms with her daughter, Isla, 4, both of Port Huron, as they walk to the porta-potties.


Twitter: @arianattaylor