BRICK – There are no plans to reopen the walking path at Brick Reservoir any time soon, even though the state lifted restrictions on low-risk activities on May 2.
Governor Phil Murphy has enacted a multi-stage approach to put New Jersey on the road back to recovery from the coronavirus pandemic, and as part of Stage 2, passive recreation, such as walking and hiking, is allowed in state parks and forests.
But Brick Reservoir remains closed to those who enjoy walking its 1.6-mile perimeter. Residents have taken to social media to ask the township administration when the reservoir would open, but Mayor John G. Ducey has stated on numerous occasions that the township does not have control over the facility since it is owned by the Brick Township Municipal Utilities Authority (BTMUA).
Executive Director of the BTMUA Chris A. Theodos said the reservoir would continue to remain closed to the public for safety and social distancing purposes.
“While we grapple with the effects of the COVID-19 restrictions and the limits on our liberties, we must act on the information we have at the moment,” Theodos wrote in a September 29 email.
“Perhaps with an overabundance of caution we have been advised to continue to close the reservoir to the public for safety and social distancing purposes,” he said.
New Jersey has instituted a self-quarantine for anyone travelling from 35 states currently, and with the extension of state restrictions after an uptick in coronavirus cases – including the wearing of masks – the reservoir staff is unable to enforce compliance, he said.
“We are primarily a secure water reservoir and a source of safe drinking water,” Theodos wrote. “While we do offer some ‘park like’ activities, we are not a traditional park,” and it requires added protections that are not necessarily required of traditional parks.
He said there is no mechanism or monitoring in place to assure that people will not congregate in larger groups than advised, or practice safe social-distancing measures while walking around the reservoir.
The staff there cannot control the sanitizing of common areas such as restrooms, handrails, port-a-johns, benches, gazebos, trash/recycling cans and more, he said.
When the reservoir is open to the public, BTMUA must provide staffing in order to safeguard employees from the general public, Theodos said.
“Because of this, in conjunction with safe distancing guidance from federal and state agencies, and with an abundance of concern for the population we service, this closure will remain for the time being,” he said. “As we gather information, our policy may change.”
The reservoir, which was an abandoned sand and gravel mining pit, is located on a 120-acre site on Sally Ike and Herbertsville Road. It has the highest elevation in the township at 105 feet above sea level, allowing the stored water to flow by gravity to the BTMUA water treatment plant.
Construction on the reservoir was a 10-year project that began in April of 1992. The walking path around its perimeter was the final piece of the project, which was completed about 15 years ago.