WELLFLEET — Summertime is coming but the living is far from easy.
The expansive Outer Cape beaches may seem the perfect social distancing paradise, but the Wellfleet Select Board is concerned enough about the spread of the coronavirus to be the first on the Outer Cape to limit beach parking this year.
The board voted on April 28 to close the 176-spot parking lot on the west side of Ocean View Drive at White Crest Beach for the summer.
The closure is meant to limit the flow of day-trippers to Wellfleet beaches.
“Limiting parking and density on beaches is the only way to keep beaches open,” said Mike DeVasto of the select board. “We can’t encourage people to day-trip.”
White Crest is the only major ocean beach managed by the town with an allocated lot for day-trippers. The ocean beaches at Lecount Hollow and Newcomb Hollow are open only to residents and taxpayers or three-day, one-week, or two-week sticker holders.
Day-trippers in 2020 are now limited to Cahoon Hollow, which has just 20 spots and is leased to the Beachcomber bar and restaurant. Beachcomber co-owner Todd LeBart did not return a call for comment. But Wellfleet Town Administrator Dan Hoort said he expects the Beachcomber will fill the lot on a first come, first served basis this summer.
Day-trippers may also use Marconi Beach, one of six beaches from Eastham to Provincetown operated by the Cape Cod National Seashore. Seashore Supt. Brian Carlstrom said he still has not made a decision about summer closures and for now the beaches are open.
Eastham town beaches remain open, said Eastham Town Administrator Jacqueline Beebe.
Truro beach sticker sales are “on hold” due to the coronavirus, according to the town website.
Wellfleet officials are adopting the “industry standard” used elsewhere for parks. The aim is to reduce density by 25 to 40 percent, said Director of Community Services Suzanne Grout Thomas.
The limit will have a financial impact on the town. Last summer, the town made $198,000 on beach day passes.
But it’s a sacrifice that needs to be made, said Justina Carlson of the select board.
“The board is not anti-business, the virus is anti-business,” she said. “Our priority must be public health.”
Helen Miranda Wilson, another board member, said this could lead to illegal parking by nonresidents.
“If they can’t use a town parking lot, they will find other places to park; people will simply break the law,” she said.
Orleans resident and frequent Wellfleet beachgoer Zach Herman said he intends to continue to enjoy White Crest.
“I would just ride with a friend who has a sticker,” Herman said.
The parking closure could reduce the number of visitors by 13,000 to 26,000 for the season, which officials hope will be enough to keep everyone at a safe distance and prevent further closures.
“I don’t want to close the beaches — they are places of peace and serenity where people go to not worry about what’s going on in the rest of their lives,” Grout Thomas said.
Individual behavior, however, could cause town officials to impose more restrictions.
“It’s on the adult human beings using the beaches to make the next step,” Grout Thomas said. “We can only advise and recommend.”
Wellfleet stickers are now available online; only residents and taxpayers can purchase them. Visitor stickers will be available on June 13.