Jefferson Parish forced to temporarily close public boat launch after hundreds gathered

Jefferson Parish forced to temporarily close public boat launch after hundreds gathered

NEW ORLEANS, La. (WVUE) - The plan was to take the boat out on lake Pontchartrain over the weekend, but Kevin Adams says it didn’t play out like that.

“The parking lot was really full and there are people everywhere jockeying for position so I said even if the water was gone there’s too many people to bother,” said Adams.

Concerns for social distancing kept Adams away from the water, but not so for the hundreds of others that Jefferson Parish law enforcement broke up at the Bonnabel boat launch. JPSO eventually closed the area to vehicles.

“With the lakefront closed and Kenner closed it became a tipping point to us when we had way too many vehicles and people out there,” said Jefferson Parish Sheriff Joe Lopinto.

Lopinto says they were forced to close the boat launch after the crowds did not dissipate. He says they want to keep these public spaces open, but only if social distancing is maintained.

“We’re trying to find a balance in Jefferson Parish. We want be able to be outside, we want people to be able to walk around and do things, we also have to understand that we are a population of 430,000 people and if you’re walking around your neighborhood it’s normally ok. When we have a couple hundred cars congregating in one place that’s going to become a problem and it was a problem this weekend with the beautiful weather we had,” said Lopinto.

Whether the boat launch stays open is completely dependent on the public. If these parking lots start to fill up, parish leaders say they will close it down.

“We’ll have a detailed officer to evaluate the amount people will allow it to stay open and if it gets too great will put the barricades back up,” said Lopinto.

“We don't wanna put our JPSO officers having to approach people breaking up groups so we had to close that,” said Parish President Cynthia Lee-Sheng.

Lee-Sheng says she understands people want to get out and feel some kind of normal with friends and family, but she says now is not the time.

“It’s a critical week for us we’re still seeing positive cases we’re still seeing high death rates, it’s difficult to realize how dark our days are right now with this beautiful weather outside but people have to be mindful that we’re still very much in the middle of this,” said Lee-Sheng.

Adams says while he enjoys the time on the water, if it’s going to put his and others’ safety at risk, he’ll push off another day.

“It is what it is we’re just going to get through it and enjoy the time,” said Adams.

There were not any arrests or summons from this weekend's Bonnabel boat launch closure.

Lopinto says there’s certainly a chance it could close again this upcoming weekend or whenever groups start gathering, as it will be a judgement call.

Copyright 2020 WVUE. All rights reserved.