Huge turnout for Sandy Point State Park, early closures when at-capacity July Fourth week
ANNAPOLIS, Md. - On a hot day, lots of people like to spend it on or by the water, especially on a holiday week.
Thousands of people had the same idea on this Fourth of July -- choosing to go to local state parks rather than to the Ocean over the Bay Bridge. But beachgoers were being turned away as several spots filled to capacity not long after the sun came up.
An extended July Fourth holiday for many, with some taking last weekend off, and others this coming weekend and lucky ones took the whole ten days. Officials knew it was going to get crowded, but they just didn't expect it to happen so early in the morning.
Officials at Sandy Point State Park say by 4 a.m. there was already a line of cars waiting to get into the park, and by 5:30 a.m. it was backed out down the road all the way out onto Route 50.
Took a lot to get all those cars in the parking lot and by 9:30 in the morning, they say Sandy Point park was at capacity -- all 1,500 parking spots taken, which means about 10,000 people were already getting their July Fourth holiday started.
Maryland Natural Resources Police says the situation was the same at all four of the local waterfront parks Wednesday morning.
Officials say extra officers were called in to help direct traffic and keep everyone safe. And unfortunately, very early in the day, the had to start turning people away because there was just no more room for more cars or people.
"They like to wait until they have a fairly good amount of spaces open because you don't want to let people in just one at a time. You want to be able to say, okay, let's reopen the park," rather than letting in people one-by-one, says Candy Thomson with Maryland Natural Resources Police.
"We advise people come in as a group so you don't get separated. We do have situations where have the family gets in and the other half comes hours later. They don't get in, one has drinks, the other has burgers. You don't want that to happen. We don't want to make you unhappy that's not what we are here for," she says.
Visitors can expect these types of crowds for the rest of the week and into the weekend, especially since the weather looks pretty good.
Maryland state officials say they could see parks by the water like Sandy Point hit capacity again. They say the best advice is to come early or after 4 p.m. Instead of a sunburn visitors can enjoy dinner and a sunset.
For the latest information about parks, the Maryland Natural Resources Police have been posting on social media to let visitors know that they are open.