Old Orchard Beach will become a “walking beach,” with no sitting allowed from May 11 to June 1, under a new provision of Old Orchard Beach’s declared civil emergency, which was renewed April 30. Tammy Wells Photo

OLD ORCHARD BEACH — Starting May 11 and continuing until June 1, Old Orchard Beach will become a “walking only beach,” with no sitting to sunbathe allowed.

Old Orchard Beach Emergency Management Agency Director Fred LaMontagne and Town Manager Larry Mead have renewed the town’s civil order, which expired April 30, and was first instituted April 2. The renewed order also speaks to seasonal residences and take-out food.

The “walking beach” provision is new. The emergency order recognizes the importance of the beach to residents and the region, and noted the “walking beach” provision is designed to keep the beach open and safe for all, LaMontagne and Mead wrote in the order.

Unlike most of its neighbors to the south, from Kennebunk to York and beyond, Old Orchard Beach has kept its beach open throughout the coronavirus pandemic.

“Because Old Orchard Beach and Pine Point remain the only major ocean beaches open to public recreational use, the town is concerned about large crowds arriving if the weather turns ‘warm’ or ‘unseasonably warm’ as we get further into May and into the Memorial Day weekend,” said Mead in an email. “We fully expect that warmer weather will bring more people to the beach, including people from throughout Southern Maine, New Hampshire and Massachusetts.”

“To maintain, monitor, and oversee a beach that allows for large numbers of people with umbrellas, blankets, coolers, and chairs while ensuring social distancing, response to complaints and resolution of disputes would require significant resources that we as a town do not have,” Mead continued. “The town has kept the beach open for safe recreational use because we believe it is an appropriate haven for our residents during this stressful time. We ask that people be patient for a few weeks with the ‘walking beach’ with the expectation that it can be lifted for the month of June.”

He said the town appreciates the efforts of those who have responsibly used the beach in the past six weeks.

As well as the beach provisions, the town recommends, “on the strongest possible terms” that owners of second or seasonal properties and their invitees remain in the location of their permanent residence or in the dwelling they currently occupy until June 1, or when Gov, Janet Mills terminates the current state of emergency, whichever occurs first. The recommendation is an extension of an earlier order that was due to expire April 30.

Pier Fries is shuttered in this April 30 photo, but was scheduled to open weekends beginning May 2. Under the Old Orchard Beach civil emergency order, food businesses with take-out windows may open with a safety plan approved by the town. Tammy Wells Photo

There is some welcome news for those who enjoy Old Orchard Beach’s traditional fast foods. Those who adore a particular type of French fry made famous here, pizza or other food from a take-out window will be able to chow down, provided owners have a town-approved plan that addresses worker safety, social distancing and public health. Without an approval plan, only curbside pick-up or delivery is permissible.

Penalties for violation include a fine of $100 to $500 per violation, and could also include business license revocation. Any take-out business deemed to be operating in an unsafe manner or not following the prescribed plan may be ordered closed, the order states.

One of the first to open will be Pier Fries — owners announced on social media that they planned to begin selling their famous French fries from their window on Saturdays and Sundays from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. starting May 2, and have social distancing rules in place. 

As to second and seasonal properties, the order points out that the occupancy of such residences has grown notably as people seek to escape the implications of COVID-19 in their home communities.

Old Orchard Beach has a year round population of about 8,900, but that typically swells to about 35,000 at the peak of the tourist season.

As of Tuesday April 28, there are new state regulations in place that speak to a gradual opening of businesses like restaurants, lodging and bars, and a 14-day quarantine for those entering Maine from other states.

Comments are not available on this story.

filed under: