HAMBURG, N.Y. (WIVB) – Of the 16 state beaches that opened for swimming on Friday, two of them are in Erie County: Woodlawn Beach in Hamburg and Beaver Island in Grand Island.

In the midst of the coronavirus crisis, several dozen people showed up at Woodlawn Beach Friday morning, including Sarah Diina and two of her children.

“We’ve had a lot of discussions about not toughing anything, staying away from other people, using hand sanitizer constantly, and washing your hands wherever we can,” Diina said.

As you might imagine, the public health crisis has brought changes at the beach. Capacity has been cut in half. Usually, Woodlawn Beach’s parking lot has a max capacity of 800 cars. Now, it’s 400 cars. Group activities like sports are banned. Beach towels and chairs have to be 10 feet apart.

It wasn’t enough to keep her away, but Patricia Rogowski said she had concerns about people following the rules.

“It’s scary to me,” she said, noting it won’t be long before people get a taste of the warm weather this weekend.

There’s another change at Woodlawn Beach this week. After 10 years operating the beach, the Town of Hamburg has turned over control back to the state. Town Supervisor Jim Shaw says they will now be able to divert more resources to town facilities.

“We can honestly say that we turned it back to our friends in the state in good condition,” Shaw said.

New York State Parks Police officers were on hand Friday morning. But Assemblyman Sean Ryan says enforcement of the safety regulations will mostly be up to park staff.

“You’ve seen it in the past that if any of these venues get too crowded and you can’t social distance, they’ve been pulling the plug on them,” Ryan said.

Beaver Island and Woodlawn Beach State Parks are open for swimming from 10 am to 6 pm on  weekends only through June 20. After June 20, swimming will be available daily through Labor Day. 

Chris Horvatits is an award-winning reporter and anchor who started working at WIVB in 2017. A Lancaster native, he came to Buffalo after working at stations in Rochester and Watertown. See more of his work here and follow him on Twitter.