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New Hope closes some gathering spots after social distancing violations


New Hope Borough wants visitors to enjoy New Hope safely. But some small groups are making that harder to do, and the borough has been forced to close some public spaces in the interest of public health.

Borough Police have responded to numerous calls from residents concerning gatherings at public facilities, clearly violating social-distancing guidelines that protect everyone's health. As a consequence, the borough closed some gathering spots. Parking lots at the New Hope Solebury High School, the American Legion and Borough lots will now be closed on weekends. Lenape Park is now closed on weekends. And the borough will be removing benches from public streets, grounds and parks.

The temporary removal of benches is due to many weekend visitors using them as places to eat takeout food and to picnic – contrary to the whole intent of the governor's order closing restaurants for eat-in dining. Additionally, the borough has no way to sanitize the benches. They will be returned when the emergency is lifted.

"We had hoped to keep these places open for our local community," said New Hope Borough Emergency Management Coordinator Michael Cummings. "Unfortunately, some people are taking advantage of New Hope's goodwill and using our public spaces for their personal tailgate parties, going so far as to promote them on social media."

New Hope Borough, along with all of Bucks County and the rest of Pennsylvania, is under a statewide Stay-at-Home Order, enacted by the governor, to prevent the further spread of COVID-19. The virus that causes this deadly disease spreads easily through spit droplets – from coughing, sneezing, or even speaking.

Until there is a vaccine, which researchers say is more than a year away, the only way to protect the public from the coronavirus is strict social distancing: Keeping six feet away from others, wearing a cloth face covering in close quarters, and staying home except for essential trips.

"It is plainly unfair when our shops and restaurants have to close to protect the public health just to see a handful of scofflaws parade around town ignoring the very same public health directives," Emergency Management Coordinator Mike Cummings said. "We can't close the Lambertville Bridge and we can’t shut down the roads. We prefer not to issue citations but rather provide education by instructing individuals to keep moving and practice social distancing. The quarantine can't be lifted, allowing New Hope to return to normal, until after everyone follows the Governor's Stay-at-Home Order."

Those who choose to visit New Hope for a pleasant stroll or other outdoor exercise should be aware that there are no public restrooms available and the public may not use the facilities in any the restaurants while the Stay-at-Home Order is in effect. Additionally, parking has been significantly reduced during the coronavirus emergency.