‘X’ marks the spot: Musante Beach open with new precautions, fees

  • Brian Cannon, a lifeguard at Musante Beach in Leeds, talks about changes made as a result of COVID-19.  STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Joan Wiener holds her grandson, Leo Schapiro, 22 months, at Musante Beach in Leeds on Monday. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Brian Cannon, a lifeguard at Musante Beach in Leeds, talks about changes made as a result of COVID-19. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Musante Beach in Leeds has designated spots to encourage social distancing. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Michael Liberatore, 7, gets his shoes on as he and his mother, Kate Kelly, and brother, Matthew Liberatore, 4, get ready to leave Musante Beach in Leeds. Visitors are now required to make a reservation and pay a fee. “I feel surprised that I feel good about it,” Kelly said. “I am on the cautious side but am so happy to have a place to come that my children can play with friends.” STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • James Pettengill at Musante Beach in Leeds, with his two children, Ozzy Robb, 3, and Leo Robb, 1, in the morning on Thursday, July 9, 2020. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

Staff Writer
Published: 7/13/2020 7:08:14 PM

NORTHAMPTON — Musante Beach officially opened this month, but it doesn’t quite look the same. Brightly-colored X’s in the sand and yellow flags create spaces for groups to sit while remaining socially distant from other beachgoers.

“Things are very different this year,” said Brian Cannon, a lifeguard, while sitting at the beach’s check-in table on Monday.

As of Monday, groups of up to five people must pay $15 if they are residents and $20 if they are non-residents and can reserve spots in advance or in person if they are available, according to the city’s website. Beach spots are 12 square feet and are spaced out from each other, said Jim Miller, aquatics director of the Northampton Parks and Recreation Department.

Kate Kelly and her family have been very cautious about social distancing during the pandemic. She limits shopping to once a week and her kids, 4 and 7, are not having play dates. Kelly, a Florence resident, has asthma and before the pandemic worked as a nurse practitioner. They hadn’t spent time with another family until they went to Musante Beach last week to meet up with two other families with similarly-aged kids. She strategically picked a weekday, hoping it would be less crowded.

“Oh my gosh, it was so nice to see friends and have an in-person conversation,” she said.

The safety precautions combined with the relatively lower case count in Massachusetts made her feel comfortable going.

“I’m not going to go every day if it’s $15 per day,” she said, but she also said she understands that putting in new safety precautions is extra work, and she is happy the beach is open.

“I’m grateful to the rec department for even trying,” Kelly said.

Between lost days at the start of the season and the cost of new safety protocols — including hiring someone to sanitize the bathrooms daily — the price of a day pass for a single person increased. Last year, it was $4 for a Northampton resident adult and $3 for a senior or youth, according to Miller. Later this week, Miller said the Parks and Recreation Department plans to change the fees to $5 for one resident, $10 for two, and $15 for 3 to 5 people. Some who come to the beach alone requested a change in the fee structure, Miller said.

This year, there are also no memberships, which last year cost $80 per year for families who are residents and $95 for those who are non-residents, Miller said.

“With a family pass, you can come here and expect to have a spot on the beach,” he explained. “Nowadays with restricted spacing, we can’t guarantee that people with a pass would have a spot.”

The number of people who visit the beach fluctuates, but Miller said that on Sunday, there were about 70 or 80 people in the morning and the same number in the afternoon.

Only two groups of people were at the beach midday Monday. Leo Schapiro, 22 months old, was there with his mom, Catya Schapiro, and grandparents, Joan Wiener and Stan Schapiro. It’s a good spot for kids, said Stan Schapiro.

Wiener worried about the fee at Musante Beach. “I feel bad,” she said. “It’s pretty steep.” She added, “There are so few places you can go swimming.”

But the group felt safe with the new precautions at the beach. “I think it’s great how they marked the spots,” Wiener said.

Greta Jochem can be reached at gjochem@gazettenet.com.

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