How to enjoy the sun while respecting your neighbors
By Abigail Thorpe
Warm weather is setting in, and many beaches and parks are beginning to lift restrictions in the Gig Harbor area. But just because the beach is open doesn’t mean you should treat it as your own personal space. From social distancing to packing out your trash, it’s key to consider other’s safety and enjoyment as well as your own.
“We are all excited to enjoy the nice weather at our parks and beaches. But this can also be a hard time to decide where to visit safely, what’s open or closed, what to bring and how to recreate safely,” says Chuck Cuzzetto from the Peninsula Metropolitan Park District. “We recommend packing hand-sanitizer, stepping off the trail to allow passing and, most of all, following safe physical distancing practices when visiting a park.”
PenMet Parks wants to provide the community with healthy, fun outdoors spaces to recreate, but they also want to help keep families and individuals safe and healthy. To that end, they are working on a phased approach to reopening facilities and amenities. Beach location access opened on May 5, but the parks district encourages people to still not gather in groups, not park on roadways, and to respect the space of others in the area.
If you pack trash and belongings in, pack them back out—enjoying a public beach goes along with keeping it clean. “Go before you go,” says Cuzzotto. Use the restroom prior to your visit, as many public restrooms may be closed. Also, “allow others to spend time by limiting your time,” he adds. If a parking lot is full, it’s a good indication the park is full. Wait your turn, and don’t just park on the roadway.
COVID aside, there are some other basic etiquette rules you should brush up on before hitting the beach. Don’t blare your music in public. You may love your “Summer 2020” playlist, but others on the beach may not agree. Pack your headphones if you must have the tunes, or turn it down so the noise pollution doesn’t spread to your neighbors.
Sand in the eye is no one’s idea of a fun beach day, so take a look around before you shake your towel, and pay attention to which way the wind is blowing. On that note, should you decide to start up a frisbee, football or volleyball game, don’t do it right next to the person enjoying a sun-filled snooze. Look for a big open area where you won’t hurt people or accidentally interrupt their picnic with a ball to the lemonade pitcher.
Many of us like to relax with a good cold one in hand, but most public spaces prohibit alcohol. Leave the booze at home and opt for a hydrating bottle of water instead. Your body will thank you later.
On a health note, consider leaving the cigarettes, cigars, pipes and other smoking devices at home. If you must take a smoke break, go to a private area where you are allowed to smoke. Many people are significantly affected by cigarette and other smoke, and smells carry easily on a beach, even if you’re several feet away from the next blanket.
Everyone enjoys watching the birds that dot the sand and duck in and out of the clear blue water. Seagulls are synonymous with the beach—they’re also always on the hunt for food. It can be fun to toss them a chip, but it’s best to avoid feeding the birds. Not only will you attract every bird in sight, wild birds aren’t meant to eat our food, and it can have harmful effects on their diet.
While we’re on the topic, consider before bringing your dog to the beach. Is the beach or park dog friendly? Some are not, and it’s against the rules to bring your dog. If the space is dog friendly, make sure to bring doggy bags in case your furry friend did notgo before going.
Keep it on a leash if off leash is not allowed, but regardless, make sure your pup is well-behaved and under control at all times. Hank may be the friendliest guy alive, but many people will still get scared if an unknown dog runs up and jumps on them. Finally, make sure to bring water and provide shade for your dog just like you would for yourself. Sun can be just as draining and exhausting for pets as it is for humans.
While beaches have just recently opened up, many trails and dog parks have remained open during the “Stay Home, Stay Healthy” order. Playgrounds, sports courts and ball fields remain closed, as these spaces are naturally high touch. “PenMet Parks is asking the public to honor closures as part of the community’s collective response and individual responsibility to keep everyone safe,” says Cuzzetto.
“Our friends at Harbor WildWatch have some great online programs that include virtual tours of our beach locations and some wetlands,” he adds. “We also have great social media resources, so be sure to follow us @penmetparks; we always love seeing our visitors’ photos!”
So get outside and enjoy the sun, but be respectful while you do! Gig Harbor offers so many wonderful opportunities for everyone to enjoy its spectacular natural resources, but it’s our responsibility to keep it clean and welcoming for all.