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County, Township Parks To Open May 2, With Limitations

Township parks will reopen May 2.

Now that they have the blessing of Gov. Phil Murphy to do so, county and local officials have decided to open their respective parks for passive recreation only.

But those openings come with a host of rules, all of which mimic the guidelines set by Murphy in opening state parks in his Executive Order.

Speaking during a virtual “town hall” meeting hosted by Mayor Phil Kramer on April 30, township officials stressed that residents need to abide by those restrictions.

Township manager Robert Vornlocker predicted a second round of park shutdowns if the rules are not followed.

“Social distancing and not congregating in groups must be the rule,” he said. “I can hazard a guess and I think my guess is correct, that if this becomes an issue locally or at the county or state level where people amass in large groups, parks will be closed again.”

“There’s certainly an advantage to a whole lot of people to have these parks available to them, so I ask that everyone follow the guidelines and use common sense … and not put it in jeopardy,” he said.

Vornlocker’s guess was backed up by a tweet from the Governor, in which he said, “This upcoming weekend will be a crucial test. We are placing tremendous trust in you to keep up with your social distancing. But, if we see this weekend what we saw that first weekend in April, I will not hesitate to reverse course and close our parks again.”

Patrons of county and township parks must maintain current social distancing practices of wearing face masks and keeping at least six feet apart.

Congregating at any of the parks or trails will not be allowed.

In Colonial Park, the dog park, the Rudolf W. van der Goot Rose Garden, and all playing fields and tennis courts will remain closed.

Parking lots at the county and township parks will be limited to 50 percent capacity. Once that limit is reached, the parking lots will be closed until openings are created by cars leaving.

There will be no picnicking at any of the parks, That includes spreading out a blanket on grass.

Organized or contact sports will not be allowed.

In teh township parks, the following activities will be allowed:

  • Fishing
  • Hiking
  • Walking
  • Running or jogging
  • Biking
  • Birding
  • Horseback riding, with a previously issued permit.

The following areas will remain closed in township parks:

  • Picnic areas
  • Playgrounds
  • Exercise stations and equipment
  • Swimming
  • Pavilions
  • Restrooms
  • Other buildings or facilities such as visitor centers, interpretive centers, and interior historical sites.

Vornlocker said the police department is looking into using a fire department drone to enforce the social distancing rules in the parks. He said there would be no photographing of people, all that would be used is the audio function to remind people to distance themselves from one another.

The township’s new Public Safety Director, Quovella Spruill, said during the town hall that using the drone for that purpose would free police officers for other, higher-priority tasks.

“It’s equivalent to if the fire department drove through with a megaphone on a truck,” he said.

Spruill also said that police officers would emphasize warning rule violators rather than taking punitive action.

“It’s a warning, probably another warning, and trying too talk to people about why we’re doing this,” she said.

“If people are not six feet apart, officers are allowed to approach them and say, you have to be six feet apart,” she said. “The rule is six feet apart, whether you’re wearing mask or not.”

“We will talk to citizens about social distancing,” she said. “The rules are the rules.”

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