The warm April weather lured a number of Vermonters to North Beach over the weekend.
Footage of the activity from Saturday shows what appears to be a large crowd of college-aged men and women socializing without masks. Burlington Campground and Beach Manager Alex Kaeding said the city’s rules “state that unless you’re in the water you should be wearing your mask.”
“We welcome all the students to come down,” Kaeding said. “As a matter of fact, we enjoy it. We just ask that they remember they are not the only ones who use this. This is also a large family beach.”
Saturday’s events required significant clean up as students left behind trash, glass, and fire pits; items that are prohibited on the beach. A family from New Hampshire visited North Beach Monday and said there were still signs of the weekend activity.
“This is a place we love. If it’s really messy and full of garbage, glass, then we don’t feel comfortable to bring our kids here,” said Jia Ioan.
Gary Derr, UVM’s Vice President of Operations and Public Safety, says he has reason to believe a number of UVM students were at North Beach on Saturday and not properly complying with the state’s health guidelines. He called it “a troubling event,” but added it would be a challenge to identify specific individuals involved.
“We want to look at the behavior, and from the footage I’ve seen it ranged from a lot of behaviors,” he said. “From people being unmasked and being not as physically distanced as they should be, up to alcohol violations and other behavioral concerns that went on here.”
He says the school will review the footage and evaluate students’ behavior. Failure to comply with health guidelines, on or off campus, could result in sanctions, such as suspension from the university.
Derr says it will take at least 10 days to see the full impact of Saturday’s events. For the remainder of the semester, students will be required to get tested for COVID-19 twice weekly.
Burlington Police Chief Jon Murad says the department did not receive any calls on Saturday. However, he was aware of the gathering.
“I’ve asked officers to prioritize engagement and education over enforcement,” Murad said. “I’ve seen less-than-optimal outcomes in many other jurisdictions around the nation where police have been used to enforce restrictions associated with COVID-19.
“As more and more people are vaccinated, I’m confident our neighbors—and college students are our neighbors, too—can dig deep and stay focused on seeing this through.”
Kaeding says while Vermonters can still visit the beach, health guidelines and park rules still apply.
“We ask that students please remember your Green & Gold Pledge. You know, honor that for the city, for its people, and for yourself.”
The campgrounds open May 1. The beach will begin charging for admission entrance May 15.