Local parks/beaches see a surge of users with WNY's hot weather

What is being done to keep people safe from Covid-19?
Posted at 6:27 PM, May 26, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-27 09:42:43-04

HAMBURG, N.Y. (WKBW) — After weeks of being inside due to Covid-19, record-setting heat inspired even more people to use local parks and beaches. Data compiled by Google shows some interesting trends that resulted from the pandemic during a period of April 4 to May 16:

  • Erie County Park use increased by 168%
  • Niagara County Park use increased by 131%

At Hamburg Town Park, people wearing masks and keeping the proper social distance lined up to purchase a beach passes with the sun blazing overhead. As temperatures climbed during the day (May 26) to a new Buffalo record of 93 degrees, beach-goers spread out along the water's edge.

While it may look normal, it isn't, explained Marty Denecke, Director of Youth, Recreation & Senior Services for the town.

  • A brand new playground at the beach is off-limits
  • The public bathrooms and concession stands, normally open on Memorial Day, are still closed
  • People are being encouraged to keep the proper distance and avoid the use of beach toys, such as balls, frisbee's, and playing volleyball.
  • Hamburg hopes to have lifeguards on duty for swimming starting June 7, at which time, the bathrooms and concession stand may open.

"I know this is going to be tough for kids but sharing equipment is not something that we want them to do," said Denecke.

Erie County parks are also seeing a surge of users. "We are seeing numbers that we have never seen, or I have ever seen as commissioner of parks," said Troy Schinzel.

While Erie County Parks are open, they too have changes to accommodate health concerns created by Covid-19.

  • Digital signs are placed at the entrance to Chestnut Ridge Park reminding people to keep the proper social distance.
  • Many park bathrooms are still closed with 20 'porta-johns' now distributed to various parks in a effort to alleviate the problem.
  • Officials are asking people to avoid hiking the 'Eternal Flame' trail as the paths are too narrow and hikers will come too close together.
  • Wendt Beach and Bennett Beach will remain closed until the end of May. Their status will be reevaluated at that time.
  • Disc Golf is still shut down in county parks. Schinzel said discussions are underway with local disc golf enthusiasts about the safest way to reopen those courses.
  • Erie County golf courses are open with tee times adjusted to space golfers out.
  • Camping is still closed at Sprague Brook Park until June 17th. The county is looking at the camping issue to see when it will be safe to reopen the popular campground.

"Just use common sense," Commissioner Schinzel urged people hoping to use the county park system. The county has 10,000 acres of parks but only 2,000 acress get frequently used, explained Schinzel.

Erie County has created an online search tool that allows people to find some of the lesser-known, and less-populated county parks, by their homes. You can access the park/forest finder tool by clicking on this link.