After more than two months of roped off parking and patrolled sand, New Hampshire’s beaches reopened on Monday.
Huge swaths of the shoreline remained empty, though, likely due to a combination of chilly morning weather and the large number of restrictions that remain in place, including limited parking capacity, in an effort to limit the spread of the coronavirus.
Under Gov. Chris Sununu’s executive order, beachgoers must essentially stay in motion, either running, walking, surfing or swimming. Picnics and sunbathing remain prohibited.
“As you can see, it is really empty right now, which is surprising since it is the first day open,” said Colby Petalas, 16, a lifeguard for the state overseeing a stretch of sand at The Wall in Hampton.
Ann Marie Arcidi and her daughter nearly had the shoreline to themselves, walking on the beach for the first time in months.
“Clears the mind, clears the soul, good physical activity,” she told NHPR without breaking stride. “Just a change of scenery. It is great.”
With the water a crisp 49 degrees, there were no swimmers in sight on Monday.
A few surfers, though, took to the ocean.
“Just having fun, and having the beaches back open, it makes me smile again. It gives me joy,” said 19 year old Cole Nealon, surfboard in hand. “Even with the small waves, it doesn’t matter.”
At Jenness Beach, which is tight for parking in normal times, half of the lot will remain closed to reduce the opportunity for crowding at the beach.
Even with the changes, beach regulars, including Desiree Kandel, who “turned eleven last week,” were excited to have any level of access restored.
“School has just been so different, and stressful,” she said. Getting back to the ocean, even if it is too cold for boogie boarding, her preferred summer sport, offered relief.
“It’s been wonderful,” she said. “It is lovely.”