Even with social distancing and health guidelines in place, a flood of tourists over Memorial Day weekend may have set a new record for the three-day holiday.
Go Lake Havasu CEO Terrence Concannon said last year’s Memorial Day weekend was the largest ever in Havasu in terms of visitor numbers.
But this year may have brought even more people to town despite added restrictions in place.
People were out in droves in Havasu over the three-day weekend as energy pent up over months of social distancing restrictions seemed to amplify an always-popular holiday in Havasu as those restrictions started to ease. But the crowds also were largely well-behaved as no major problems were reported to law enforcement.
Sgt. Tom Gray with the Lake Havasu City Police Department said Bridgewater Channel was packed all weekend long with the city’s restrictions against mooring still active.
Arizona State Parks Public Information Officer Michelle Thompson said on Tuesday that Lake Havasu State Park had seen roughly a 10% bump in visitors compared to last year, not including numbers from Monday which are still being finalized.
Lake Havasu State Park also had more restrictions in place than usual this year due to the health crisis. While the park always keeps track of visitors and is prepared to close if it hits capacity, the park in Havasu only had to close the entrance once – July 5, 2019 – prior to social distancing restrictions. With a reduced capacity, Lake Havasu State Park Manager Daniel Roddy said the park reached capacity and had to close on both Saturday and Sunday.
The park was a particularly popular place to be on Saturday, and it started extremely early in the morning. Roddy said that by 5 a.m. lines had started to form that stretched north and south along London Bridge Road. The LHCPD provided traffic control and monitoring along London Bridge Road and Industrial to help ease the congestion.
“Those are things that I don’t think we have seen in this town in a long, long time – a line like that at 5 in the morning,” Roddy said. “I think that is indicative of the fact that there was a very strong volume of people looking to come out, and it was beyond the availability.”
By 8:15 a.m. on Saturday, the park reached its capacity and had to close to new entries until noon. Roddy said high winds likely effected the crowd size on Sunday, but the park still had to close the entrance from 12:45 p.m. until 2:15 p.m. after hitting capacity.
Despite the high traffic, Roddy said no major incidents were reported at the State Park.
“It was a safe weekend,” he said. “In the grand scheme of things, to have four days in a row with thousands of people accessing the area through our park, to come away with no major medical issues and no emergency response issues was astounding. We are very thankful for that. I think people were very respectful of each other. There are always a couple of concerns throughout that kind of thing with that many people, but it was a safe weekend and I think we all take some pride in that.”
The boost in visitors also reportedly provided a shot in the arm to many local businesses who were forced to shut their doors or alter operations during the shutdown.
“I talked to some of the bar owners and restaurateurs downtown and, thank God, they had a legendary weekend when it comes to revenue,” Concannon said. “That really helps them get their workers back on board, and obviously helps the strength and welfare of our city. So I am excited to see that, but just like everybody else I want all of our visitors and residents to be safe, and I also want our restaurants and hotels to enact the safety measures they need to in order to ensure everyone’s safety. I think we are doing that, so we are on a good path. We just cannot stop being careful.”
Gray said the city’s dispatch center took almost 2,500 calls from Friday until Monday night, including about 1,050 calls for service which include both the police and fire departments. Officers made a total of 74 arrests from Friday to Monday, including 18 alcohol related charges. For comparison, LHCPD made 85 arrests over Memorial Day weekend last year, and 52 arrests in 2018.
Memorial Day weekend was a busy one on all of the waterways throughout Mohave County, according to a press release from the sheriff’s office specifically mentioning Lake Havasu and the Colorado River. In all, Mohave deputies made contact with 266 boaters for various reasons, giving out 203 warnings and issuing 10 citations.
The sheriff’s office also reports responding to 11 medical calls and 16 calls for boater assistance. Included in those numbers were three boating collisions resulting in moderate injuries and three boat collisions with no injuries that resulted in heavy damage. River Medical Paramedics were stationed aboard several sheriff’s patrol vehicles throughout the weekend to assist with medical calls.
The sheriff’s department also reported two separate incidents of subjects voluntarily jumping from an unanchored boat. In both cases, the boat was blown away from the subjects by high winds and they struggled to swim in the water but were saved from drowning by passing boaters.
Lake Havasu City Mayor Cal Sheehy noted that city officials were anticipating lots of visitors over Memorial Day, after witnessing increasing crowds over the past couple weekends that have coincided with easing social distancing restrictions.
“There seems to be a really large demand for Lake Havasu at this time, but Havasu has always been a very popular destination for visitors,” Sheehy said. “Now that visitors are out of their routines and don’t have as many commitments we can expect to continue to see a large number of visitors as we move through the summer months.”
But that doesn’t mean that citizens and visitors can chalk social distancing up as a memory just yet. Even as tourism starts to pick back up, Sheehy said it will be important to continue to take precautions.
“It’s just reminding visitors to be respectful of our citizens, to follow the CDC guidelines, and to continue to physical distance so we can continue to make progress and move forward as a community, a state, and a nation,” he said.