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Michigan City Closing Beaches, Washington Park For Seven Days

MICHIGAN CITY, Ind. (CBS) -- Another popular Indiana beachfront is closing temporarily due to COVID-19 – this time in Michigan City.

The beaches from the Michigan City Lighthouse to Bus Stop 13 will be closed for a week, starting at midnight on Friday. Washington Park and the Michigan City zoo will also be closed.

As CBS 2's Marissa Parra reported, beachgoers on Thursday afternoon were soaking up their last hours. And the news that the beaches were closing caught them by surprise.

"Is it really?" one beachgoer said. "Oh gosh, we had no clue. That's sad."

The beaches were closed by executive order from Michigan City Mayor Duane Parry. Barricades will be up for at least a week.

"We planned to stay for the day and come back tomorrow, so the beach closing makes me aggravated," said beachgoer Kawanjula Harden.

Mayor Parry said after a visit to the beach himself, he was left with no choice.

"There's very little consideration for our beach," he said. "There was no social distancing, no mask."

Parry said over the last few weeks, the parking lots at Michigan City beaches have been over capacity several times, citing fewer options for beachgoers.

Mayor Parry said they had to close the beach early several times in the last few weeks because of the full parking lots.

"It was just shoulder to shoulder people," he said. "It's a younger crowd, and I think that's what's making the numbers jump up."

Chicago beaches have been closed for months with no signs of reopening soon. Thus, Illinois residents have been flocking to Indiana's beaches.

Parry said people coming in from Chicago are crucial for tourism in Michigan City. But right now, the pandemic is more important.

"We've always been playgrounds for Chicago," he said. "If it weren't for Chicago, we wouldn't be what we are today. But I've got an obligation to protect my people and our visitors."

Meanwhile on Wednesday, Whiting, Indiana closed its beachfront over similar crowd concerns to those in Michigan City.

"We just became, here in Michigan City, overrun," Mayor Parry said.

The mayor's decision was not a popular one with beachgoers.

"That sucks, because I want to enjoy my summer," said Klaudiusz Dabrowski. "The people here shouldn't be here if they're worried about getting it."

But Mayor Parry said we should be giving more pause to remember that while things look like sun and fun on the beach, we're still in the middle of a pandemic.

"It's hard to protect people that don't appear to want to be protected," Parry said. "It's tough, but it's what I have to do. It's my job."

This closure will also include nearby bars and restaurants, including restaurant Grille.

The order expires at 11:59 p.m. next Thursday, unless the Michigan City Common Council agrees to an extension.

Illinois residents have also been flocking to the popular Indiana Dunes State Park.

The Indiana Dunes beaches are not planning a similar closure. Indiana Dunes National Park said in a statement:

"While the beaches at Indiana Dunes National Park have been very busy this summer, we do not plan to close them due to overcrowding. We've brought in extra national park rangers from other parks and are getting assistance from local police to handle the crowds. With 15 miles of beach in the park, it is still possible for people to social distance by walking a ways down the beach to get away from other visitors. We do recommend that visitors wear masks in parking lots and near other people until they can get to a section of beach where it is possible to social distance."

LaPorte County, Indiana commissioner also voted to make masks mandatory, including outdoors when social distancing is not possible.

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