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Township Parks, Open Space Preserves To Close At Sunset April 7

All township parks will close at Sunset on April 7. Pictured is Inman Park.

All township parks and open space preserves will close as of sunset on April 7.

The move comes in the wake of Gov. Phil Murphy closing all state and county parks.

In his order closing the parks, which Murphy said was made necessary by people not practicing social distancing outdoors, the governor left it up to individual towns as to whether they wanted to close their parks.

Mayor Phil Kramer said township officials were not all aware of the parameters concerning closing the parks, “but nevertheless we are closing our parks as of sunset tonight.”

“Even if we were against this conceptually, if you close the state and county parks in Franklin, that’s a large portion of our parkland, so people will come to Franklin parks and make it hard to maintain socials distancing,” he said. “As a matter of practicality, we agreed to do that.”

Kramer said whether there will be any physical barriers set up at the park entrances will be left up to Township Manager Robert Vornlocker and the township police.

He noted that in some parks, access can be gained from nearby residential properties, and closing gates would make it harder for police to patrol and enforce the order.

“We will be patrolling, and we will be enforcing,” Kramer said.

In a Facebook post, the township Police Department said that public works personnel will be “posting signage at the entrances to all parks and open space preserves and police officers will be actively enforcing the provisions of this Executive Order and the Township Order. Residents are urged to follow the stay at home order and only go out to seek essential services.”

There are 13 parks and two grasslands preserves in the township. The township late in March closed all park playgrounds, while leaving the parks open.

In a press release, the Somerset County Park Commission warned that the park closure will be enforced.

“The Park Commission intends to cooperate fully in ensuring compliance with this edict, and it will solicit the assistance of local police and Sheriff’s Officers in pursuing violations,” according to the release. “A violation of Executive Order 118 is considered a disorderly persons offense which is subject to imprisonment for a term not to exceed 6 months and/or a monetary fine not to exceed $1,000.00.”

As of April 7, 280 township residents have tested positive for the coronavirus, with eight residents succumbing to it.

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