A new Gloucester County policy will go into effect this Independence Day, July 4, which will ban use of all fireworks and sparklers at Gloucester Point Beach that day.
Carol Steele, Gloucester director of parks, recreation and tourism, said Monday that the policy was endorsed by a new events safety committee that is investigating safety procedures for various special events in Gloucester. She said the committee might decide to recommend similar or other measures, such as no glass bottles, at certain other events the county is involved in throughout the year, including the Renaissance Fair, Christmas Parade and Concerts on the Green, among others.
According to Steele, there have been "a number of near misses" at the crowded beach—a prime viewing spot for fireworks shot from Yorktown—on past Independence Day celebrations, where fireworks went off too close to individuals and people were almost injured. The July 4 ban, which will take effect on that holiday at the beach each year, includes all legal fireworks including the popular fountains, Steele said, as well as sparklers. Obviously, illegal fireworks like M-80s are not allowed at the beach at any time.
Gloucester County has no ordinance prohibiting fireworks at the beach, but Steele said as the parks, recreation and tourism director, she has the authority to approve the fireworks ban on July 4 at Gloucester Point Beach. She has notified County Administrator Brenda Garton and the Gloucester Board of Supervisors about the new policy, as well as the Gloucester Sheriff’s Department.
Steele said there will be "a learning curve" during the next few years as beach-goers become accustomed to the new no-fireworks policy each Independence Day. But using fireworks at the beach on July 4 is a Class 2 misdemeanor and violators may be ticketed by sheriff’s deputies for that offense.
To get the word out about the fireworks ban, Steele said signs will be erected at the beach prior to the holiday. For the first time, Steele said, the department will use Spanish on its signs, in addition to English, as her staff has noticed many Spanish-speaking people come to the beach on July 4.
Another change this year will be parking arrangements at and near the beach. Steele said there will be extra parking spaces designated for the handicapped near the Beach House, a building that houses the concession stand and restrooms.
Electronic message boards will be in place to alert motorists when the parking lots are full. When that happens, motorists will be allowed to drop off passengers at the beach and then try to find a parking space at one of the nearby parking lots on the Virginia Institute of Marine Science campus.
Parking is at a premium at the beach on July 4, Steele said. A shuttle bus was tried for several years, but few persons chose to utilize it so it is not being used for the upcoming holiday.
For more information, call 693-2355.