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DNR officials enforcing social distancing at parks, lakes including Lanier
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Gainesville Marina has its fair share of activity Friday, March 20, 2020, on the second day of spring. - photo by Scott Rogers

The Department of Natural Resources is enforcing social distancing on lakes and at parks, including Lake Lanier.

Gov. Brian Kemp has banned groups of more than 10 unless people can remain 6 feet apart. The medically fragile are also required to shelter in place.

Kemp and DNR Commissioner Mark Williams issued a statement March 29 reminding parkgoers of the ban of their intention to enforce the ban.

“The Department of Natural Resources will enforce the executive order limiting large gatherings with officials patrolling bodies of water and campgrounds,”  the statement reads. “They are monitoring coves where people tend to congregate and, if necessary, using bullhorns to tell people to comply with the order. 

“Officials will approach people in violation of the order and demand compliance for the well-being of our citizens and state. Local officials are also working hard to ensure compliance with local directives, which vary by city and county across our state.”

Kemp said while many Georgians are heeding the directive, some are not. 

DNR Col. Thomas Barnard, who is the director of the law enforcement division, said game wardens will be looking for groups larger than 10 people and those not following social distancing protocols.

“I was on (Lake) Oconee this weekend actually, and we went by several islands and sandbars where folks were gathered,” Barnard said. “They were all far enough apart and in small groups and were actually adhering to the executive order.”

The colonel asked for a statewide situational report from all of the captains, who reported people are for the most part adhering to the rules.

“We did have a few folks scattered throughout the state that we had to talk to, but most once we remind them of the executive order, they immediately complied with that,” Barnard said.

Barnard said he had not heard any complaints about noncompliance on Lake Lanier.

Barnard said they are having discussions about moving officers to address areas with higher use and said there have been no staff reductions.

“It’s possible we may reallocate some folks in that area (of Lake Lanier),” he said.

Violations can be reported to 800-241-4113 or rangerhotline@dnr.ga.gov.

“Our goal is simply to tell those who are gathered in groups of more than 10 to disperse. From our experience this past weekend, it seemed that people wanted to do the right thing and were compliant. However, if anyone refuses to comply or repeatedly ignores the directive, they can be cited and charged with reckless conduct under Georgia Code 16-5-60b,” DNR spokesman Mark McKinnon wrote in an email.

The section of Georgia code cited by McKinnon reads:

“A person who causes bodily harm to or endangers the bodily safety of another person by consciously disregarding a substantial and unjustifiable risk that his act or omission will cause harm or endanger the safety of the other person and the disregard constitutes a gross deviation from the standard of care which a reasonable person would exercise in the situation is guilty of a misdemeanor.”

A misdemeanor is punishable by a maximum fine of $1,000 and/or 12 months jail incarceration.

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