Memorial Day

Mainers Get Ready for Quieter Memorial Day Weekend at Beaches

Amid the coronavirus pandemic, beaches that are open will only allow visitors to walk around and are restricting swimming, fishing and surfing

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Mainers are getting ready for an unusual Memorial Day weekend as some beaches aren't quite ready to be fully operational amid the coronavirus pandemic.

In places like Old Orchard Beach, there would already be heavy traffic by Thursday and more than a few people sprawled out on the beach given the warm weather.

Instead, the Palace Playland amusement park and the arcade remained closed on Thursday while many parking lots were empty and some shops remained shuttered.

Some businesses like Pier French Fries opened back up full-time, however.

"Business has been really good," said owner Allan Buotte, who with his wife was putting the finishing touches on social distancing measures for the 88-year-old take-out joint.

In addition to staff wearing masks, signs and stickers are encouraging customers in line to stay six feet apart. Clear plastic shields separate staff from customers and condiments will be given in pre-filled containers.

But one of the most noticeable changes is a temporary modification to the Pier Fries logo, in which a French fry wearing sunglasses is now wearing a mask.

As for how many of his out-of-state customers he expected to see this weekend, Buotte, like many business owners weren't sure.

Unless she rescinds it in the coming days, Maine Gov. Janet Mills has in place an order for out-of-state visitors to quarantine for 14 days.

Even less certain, is when Canadian tourists might return to the area.

A number of visitors from Canada drive south to visit parts of Maine each summer and right now the Canadian border is still closed.

All that has led to a significant drop in traffic and according to the Maine Turnpike Authority, the drop may be the lowest since about the year 2000.

"You have to go back 20 years to find a Memorial Day weekend that will be as low as this one maybe," said Maine Turnpike Authority Director Peter Mills. "We're in completely unprecedented times so it's very hard to calculate."

All of that uncertainty makes Buotte all the more grateful.

He says knowing that he can operate his business, even with some modifications, is something many around him cannot do this Memorial Day.

"To not be able to be open right now is devastating. I can't even imagine having to be in that position," he said.

Last week, Fort Williams Park in Cape Elizabeth and beaches in Wells welcomed visitors back with restrictions.

In Wells, activities on the beach are limited to walking, swimming, fishing and surfing. At Fort Williams, cars are restricted from the park, with visitors required to walk or bike in only.

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