Georgia DNR prepares to enforce social distancing rules


BySean Evans|March 31, 2020 at 7:46 AM EDT - Updated March 31 at 7:55 AM

SAVANNAH, Ga. (WTOC) - With families looking to get out of their homes and enjoy some of the beautiful weather over the weekend, many in our area took to the water.

Georgia’s Department of Natural Resources Law Enforcement Division says this past weekend was particularly busy, and that not all boaters were practicing social distancing as they should.

“We got a lot of calls state-wide about boating traffic on the lakes and on the waterways here on the coast," said Captain Chris Hodges with the Georgia DNR Law Enforcement Division. "And when that happened we started realizing at that point that we’ve got to get out there and explain to these folks the dangers of what they’re doing, and on top of that, enforce the Governor’s executive order.”

Hodge says Georgia law gives agencies like his enforcement power of executive order guidelines, including writing citations and breaking up crowds if necessary.

“With that said, our goal is to not issue any citations for any of this," he said. "Our goal is to get the message out to these folks that are enjoying the outdoors, getting their family out of the house, and anticipating what they’re doing is a great way to do that and stay safe. But at any point in time when you start gathering in a large group, you might as well be sitting in a restaurant in downtown Savannah, because the dangers are the same.”

In addition to keeping crowds from congregating on sandbars, the DNR’s Law Enforcement Division patrols will also keep an eye on areas like marinas and areas where boaters are tying their vessels together.

“The Governor’s order specifically talks about businesses and organizations, establishments, corporations, non-profit corporations…so I would say yes. Anywhere that you would gather in a large group you could be in violation of this executive order,” Hodges said.

The DNR’s Law Enforcement Division won’t be alone on area enforcement. Chatham County’s Marine Patrol was also out this past weekend making sure boaters were maintaining social distance for their own safety.

Photo: Getty Images

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