Canobie Lake Park preps for opening
Masked employees were testing roller coasters, cleaning and prepping Canobie Lake Park on a recent July morning that would typically have lured guests to the lakeside amusement venue.
They were preparing for the park's opening on July 16 — two months later than expected after the COVID-19 pandemic closed the entertainment industry.
"It's not going to be the product (guests) have known and loved for the past 100 years — it's different," said Chris Nicoli, media and entertainment manager for the park in Salem, New Hampshire.
This summer there won't be a crowded day at the park because visitors will be required to make reservations to ensure the park doesn't exceed 25% capacity anytime in the first few weeks, Nicoli said. Once in the park, guests over the age of 3 will be required to wear a face covering such as a surgical mask or cloth mask anytime they are not on a ride, eating or in a mask-free rest area. Despite the changes, employees are working to make the 65-acre outdoor space a great entertainment venue, Nicoli said.
Instead of hula-hooping and dancing close to people, the park's Fun Squad is going to don Ghostbuster-like backpacks full of hand sanitizer that they can spray and help encourage social distancing while still having fun, Nicoli said. There will also be a lot of social distancing markers and staff ensuring that groups stay at least six feet from each other, he said.
"People don't need to come to an amusement park — it's not essential — but they are going to come because they know we are going to do it right, and feel safe," Nicoli said.
Park guests and employees will be screened for potential COVID-19 symptoms before they enter the park. Their temperature will be taken and they will be asked a series of questions, Nicoli said.
He said employees will also be separated into groups to work together in specific areas, making it easier to contact trace if someone gets sick. This method is designed to prevent a COVID-19 outbreak, he said.
Despite this year being different, Nicoli was encouraged by employees' responses during the months while state officials were deciding if amusement parks in the state could open. Within 24 hours of an announcement that Canobie would accept job applications for seasonal workers, more than 500 people applied, he said.
Canobie has enough employees to open the park, though the park is still hiring, Nicoli said. Interviews and training are all being held virtually, he said, however, the family-like camaraderie between employees still exists, and that is essential to the park's safety, he said.
Staff member Sarah Hills, 19, of Danville was happily cleaning a photo booth at the park recently. Having worked at the park for five years, she was happy to return, and knows her job description includes more cleaning this year as the park takes extra precautions, she said.
"We owe it to our guests, team and community to have a safe environment," Nicoli said, while explaining the state and federal guidelines the park is abiding by. "Our guests need us now more than ever with kids having been out of school and people being at home, and we have to prove to our guests that we can do this in a proper way."
Canobie is encouraging people particularly from high-risk groups to come to the park only when they feel safe, Nicoli said, explaining that 2020 season passes and tickets will be honored next year. The park has made an instructional video posted on its website that describes what the expectations for guests are for people to decide if they want to visit this year, he said.
Gov. Chris Sununu allowed amusement parks across the state to open as of June 29.
— Madeline Hughes
Police: Groveland man drove at people, cruisers
A Groveland man, arrested last week in Hampstead for stalking, reckless conduct and criminal mischief, is expected to face “a lengthy list of additional misdemeanor level charges,” according to a statement from Hampstead police.
Officers were called to Ells Road about 8:45 p.m. Tuesday of last week, when a neighbor reported a verbal altercation.
The man who was eventually arrested, 21-year-old Shaine Clarke Reynolds, fled the scene when officers arrived, police said.
“While on scene officers learned that Mr. Reynolds had been threatening a family member and he had been previously trespassed from the residence,” a prepared statement from police read.
As he was leaving, Reynolds hit a parked car and drove off, according to police.
While officers were taking a report, Reynolds returned to the area and a short police pursuit ensued, police said, but Reynolds got away.
A second pursuit followed a short time later, when an officer reported seeing Reynolds driving on Main Street.
During that interaction, police say Reynolds drove at a police cruiser on Ashford Road, hitting the driver’s side mirror before taking off again.
“Mr. Reynolds returned to the address on Ells Road and drove at people standing in the driveway,” the police statement said. “The individuals had to jump out of the way to avoid being hit. Mr. Reynolds then struck a second parked vehicle and drove off.”
Hampstead officers and a Danville officer engaged in a third pursuit with Reynolds, they said, which resulted in him striking mailboxes and a fence in the Ells Road neighborhood.
It ended about 9:50 p.m., when Reynolds drove into the parking lot of the Hampstead Police Department and rammed into an unoccupied police cruiser out front, according to police.
“Fortunately, Mr. Reynolds was taken into custody without further incident and no one was hurt,” the statement said.
Reynolds was processed at the Hampstead Police Department and then transported to the Rockingham County Jail where he was held without bail pending an arraignment in Rockingham County Superior Court last Wednesday.
He was initially charged with two counts of stalking, four counts of reckless conduct and one count of criminal mischief — all felonies.
Hampstead police said officers will be working with the Rockingham County Attorney’s Office and anticipate a long list of additional misdemeanor level charges to follow, to include: multiple counts of disobeying an officer, multiple counts of conduct after an accident, driving after suspension, criminal threatening, reckless driving and possibly receiving stolen property.
Hampstead police thanked Rockingham County Dispatch as well as the Chester, Sandown and Danville police departments for their help with the investigation and arrest.
— Breanna Edelstein
Visitations resume at Essex County facilities
The public is being allowed to visit Essex County Sheriff’s Department facilities for the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic began, according to an announcement last week from Sheriff Kevin Coppinger.
A phased reopening was scheduled to begin July 13, Coppinger said in the announcement. The first stage requires advance sign-ups and a limit of one visitor per inmate at a time.
Masks and a medical screening process, to include a temperature check, will be required when anyone enters the facilities.
Additional visitation times will be added during the week to accommodate a maximum number of visitors, Coppinger said.
His statement noted, “These changes are subject to change — and change quickly — depending on the coronavirus situation.”
“We know how hard these past several months have been on our population and their families, but our first priority has always been keeping everyone safe,” Coppinger said. “We feel we are at a point where we can begin to allow visitors, but we will need cooperation from families, attorneys, and volunteers to keep our doors open.”
The facilities were closed to the public March 14, as the pandemic began to take hold in the state.
The Sheriff’s Department announced several adjustments to keep families and inmates connected during the shutdown, including providing free phone calls.
The department expedited a plan to provide tablets to each inmate, allowing them to make phone calls to loved ones from their cell.
It also provided inmates the opportunity to access programming material to help with educational and vocational training along with some approved entertainment.
Coppinger’s announcement said attorneys are continuing to meet with clients in person at the facilities.
Programming that is resuming will allow vendors and volunteers to return as well, in addition to religious visitors.
Below is how and when to schedule a visit:
— Visiting times have been extended and lines will be available at the Middleton House of Correction seven days a week hourly from 1 p.m. to 9 p.m. Visitors must call 24 to 48 hours in advance to arrange a visit by dialing 978-750-1900, ext. 3472, between the hours of noon and 3 p.m.
— The visit lines at the Essex County Pre-Release Center in Lawrence will be by appointment at 12:30 p.m., 1:30 p.m., 6:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. seven days a week. To make an appointment, call 978-750-1900, ext. 4488, between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m.
— Visit lines at the Women in Transition Center will be Thursdays at 6 p.m. and 7 p.m., and Saturdays and Sundays at 12:30 p.m., 1:30 p.m., 3 p.m. and 4 p.m. Appointments must be made in advance by calling 978-750-1900, ext. 3728, between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m.
— In-person sign-ups for visits are allowed if space is available by checking in at the entrance tent 45 minutes prior to a visit line.
Coppinger advises people to sign-up for department alerts at essexsheriffma.org for the latest updates, as situations and guidelines can change quickly.
— Breanna Edelstein
Columbia Gas contractor hits gas main, forcing evacuation
Thirteen people were briefly evacuated from four homes on Oak Street in Lawrence last week after a contractor working for Columbia Gas hit an old gas line while attempting to install a new one, the fire chief said.
According to Chief Brian Moriarty, a crew from Feeney Brothers Utilities Services, which has been working on replacing old gas lines in the city for the gas company, hit the old line in the vicinity of 6 Oak St. at about 10:40 a.m. last Thursday morning.
Moriarty said gas leaked into the surrounding sewer system but did not enter any of the homes.
However, out of "an abundance of caution," the residents of four homes were directed to the Center, formerly the senior center, on Haverhill Street.
After the gas was turned off and cleared from the area, the residents were allowed to return home by around 11:30 a.m., Moriarty said.
Columbia Gas is working to repair the damaged pipe and continues installing new pipes in the area, the chief said. Nobody was injured and there was no damage to report, other than the broken pipe, Moriarty said.
Columbia Gas is scheduled to stop all work in the area as of Nov. 1, 2020, as part of a deal the company struck with state and federal authorities. The company is being sold to Eversource.
The gas company accepted responsibility for the fires and explosions that hit Andover, North Andover and Lawrence on Sept. 13, 2018, which killed one person, injured hundreds, and forced thousands of people to evacuate.
The accident, caused by over-pressurized gas lines, forced hundreds of businesses to close until their gas appliances could be replaced and reattached to the gas line system.
Thousands of homes faced similar problems as homeowners went without heat and/or hot water for months while they waited for the company to replace their damaged appliances, including stoves, hot water heaters and furnaces.
— Bill Kirk
Dry conditions create higher wildfire risk
State officials are asking people in New Hampshire to keep an eye on their summertime activities like having campfires or setting off fireworks, that could unintentionally start a wildfire.
Currently, there is a high risk for potentially starting a wildfire because of abnormally dry and moderate drought conditions in New Hampshire, according to the state Forest Protection Bureau and the Fire Marshall’s Office.
A large majority — 90% — of the approximately 200 wildfires that happen every year in New Hampshire are caused by human activities, such as campfires, unattended cooking fires and fireworks, according to the Fire Marshal's Office.
“While summer is a fun season, every year people are injured and property is damaged because of individuals who are not aware that their activities can lead to wildfire incidents,” said state Fire Marshal Paul Parisi.
In New Hampshire, people must obtain burn permits for all outdoor fires, including debris fires, campfires and bonfires, which helps control potential wildfires. Seasonal permits are available for specific locations that may have recurring fires, such as home fire pits and campgrounds.
“One of the best ways to help control loss caused by wildfires in New Hampshire is by obtaining a fire permit before you start your burn,” said Forest Protection Bureau Chief Steven Sherman. “Fire permits give local first responders the opportunity to inform the public about current fire conditions in the area and whether or not it is safe to burn that day.”
Burn permits are available online at nhfirepermit.com.
— Madeline Hughes
Tuscan Sea Grill to open on waterfront
Months of anticipation over the arrival of the Newburyport's newest waterfront restaurant is expected to end this week when Tuscan Sea Grill opens its doors.
Part of the Tuscan Brands family, Tuscan Sea Grill is owned by Lawrence native Joe Faro and is located at 54 Merrimac St., former home of the Black Cow Tap & Grill.
“We can’t wait to bring Tuscan Brands to another part of the Merrimack Valley,” said Faro, Tuscan Brands' CEO, in a prepared statement. “This restaurant will be a new concept for us, curated just for Newburyport."
Mark Iannuccillo, vice president of the Greater Newburyport Chamber of Commerce & Industry, said his organization is thrilled to have such a high-profile restaurant to attract diners. The space was vacated when the Black Cow moved into the newly renovated brick building at 40 Merrimac St.
Speaking of Tuscan Sea Grill's opening, Iannuccillo said, "I think it's going to be a huge draw."
The seating capacity for indoor and outdoor dining would be under 125, half of what was originally planned. General manager Cory Heagarty said while many tables inside will be blocked off because of social distancing requirements, he is aiming for between 80 and 90 diners inside.
"Everybody will be six feet apart," Heagarty said.
In June, the state announced indoor dining would be allowed as long as restaurants ensured social distancing and followed several protocols and requirements. Heagarty said all those requirements will be met.
Faro called the restaurant a "special destination" considering its waterfront location at the end of the downtown boardwalk and its ocean-inspired interior design.
"Given Tuscan’s DNA of artisan Italian cuisine and the surroundings of our newest restaurant, our focus will be coastal Italian creations," Faro said.
Those creations, according to Faro, will feature local seafood, blending his Sicilian heritage with his New England roots.
The restaurant will also feature scratch-made Italian classics, such as pasta and pizza, that regional diners have been enjoying at Faro’s Tuscan Kitchen and Tuscan Market locations for years.
Heagarty said the restaurant has hired 75 staff members but that number will likely rise soon.
"We're still hiring, though," Heagarty said. "We'd like to get up to 100."
Asked about managing Newburyport's newest waterfront restaurant, Heagarty said it is "an honor" to be part of the Faro family and looked forward to inviting the community into what he called a family restaurant.
"The restaurant itself feels like a home, it's very hospitable," Heagarty said, adding that the restaurant is looking toward building a relationship with the community and creating an experience people want to relive daily.
Tuscan Sea Grill joins the growing list of restaurants and markets in the Tuscan Brands family. There are three Tuscan Kitchen locations — Boston, Burlington and Salem, New Hampshire — and two Tuscan Market locations in Salem, New Hampshire, and Portsmouth, New Hampshire.
Tuscan Sea Grill will also feature a raw bar, an extensive wine list, and a collection of cocktails, according to Faro.
The restaurant will be open daily for lunch and dinner, with brunch served on Saturday and Sunday. The hours are: Monday through Thursday, 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m; Friday, 11:30 a.m. to 11 p.m.; Saturday, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.; and Sunday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Faro, the son of Italian immigrants, started working in his parents’ bakery at a young age, eventually enrolling as a student at the University of New Hampshire.
In an entrepreneurship class, Faro came up with a business idea called Joseph’s Gourmet Pasta & Sauces. Years later, the business that started as a school project was purchased by the world’s largest food company, Nestle, in 2006.
For more information on Tuscan Brands, including its restaurants, markets, cooking classes and catering programs, visit www.tuscanbrands.com.
— Dave Rogers