For many in West Michigan, Memorial Day weekend is the unofficial start to summer. But this year because of COVID-19, this opening weekend to the beach season looks a little different.
Sunday's sunny weather did bring crowds out to Holland State Park, but there are new restrictions in place and leftover remnants from the winter.
The park, which is operated by the DNR, said on Friday that because of the stay at home order and state spending restrictions, the usual beach clean up has been delayed. Typically, state park operators will relocate sand, smooth out the beach front, clear debris and remove the snow fencing. But all of that has been put on pause.
The DNR warned beachgoers that the available public parking at the park would be reduced by 40 percent because of drifted sand.
"Due to reduced parking availability, it’s anticipated that parking will likely fill sooner in the day and for longer periods of time," Holland State Park said. "The DNR encourages visitors to consider other outdoor options if they see the parking full signs and to please exit Ottawa Beach Road at 168th Street."
In addition to the DNR putting a pause on preparing the beach for the summer season, there are new rules in place because of the pandemic. Primarily, people are asked to practice social distancing, keeping six feet between them and people outside their household.
Many of the park's amenities, like bathrooms, hand washing stations, the playground, the picnic tables and the concessions area have all been closed to keep people from gathering in close proximity. And there is no trash service.
Despite all of that, people like Shari Smith were happy to be spending time at the beach after another long Michigan winter. Smith, who is from Grand Rapids, said she wasn't surprised by the crowds at the beach but it seemed like people were doing their part to maintain social distance.
"I thought it might be a little more crowded, but it's a good crowd today," said Smith. "It's a beautiful day, the sun is out, and we've been in long enough."
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