OCEAN COUNTY – The last remaining parks that were closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic reopened on May 22.
Ocean County Freeholder Virginia E. Haines, chairwoman of the Department of Parks and Recreation said that on May 22 all of our County parks, including our off-leash dog parks, were reopened to the public. “We will continue to keep restrictions in place in order to assure social distancing is maintained in our parks including capping parking at 50 percent.”
“We have been gradually reopening our parks since May 2 following guidelines from the state and health experts. I again want to stress these parks are being reopened for passive recreation only – walking, jogging, hiking, running and similar activities. Picnics and group activities are not allowed at this time,” Haines said.
In addition, playgrounds, nature centers, and pavilions also remain closed. Swimming is currently prohibited at any of the Ocean County parks that have beaches. Based on lifeguard availability, those beaches including the one at A. Paul King County Park in Stafford Township – are expected to open later in June. No swimming signs are posted throughout the park system.
Bathrooms will be available at all County park sites and visitors using them must be wearing a face covering. Face coverings are strongly recommended when accessing the dog parks at Ocean County Airpark in Berkeley Township and Ocean County Park, Lakewood and all of the parks in the county system.
Haines added that Ocean County will continue to adjust the restrictions at its parks as time goes on and at the direction of health experts and the state.
She said, “we are pleased to be opening all of our parks so our residents can enjoy them all again. Each of our parks offers unique features and a great opportunity to enjoy the natural beauty Ocean County has to offer.”
The last of the county’s parks that reopened included Beaver Dam County Park, Point Pleasant, A. Paul King County Park, Stafford Township, Mantoloking Bridge County Park and Fishing Pier, and Gull Island County Park, Point Pleasant Beach.
In addition, more changes will be coming to the county’s golf courses.
Tee times that included foursomes began on May 22 at the Ocean County Golf Course at Atlantis, Little Egg Harbor Township and the Ocean County Golf Course at Forge Pond, Brick Township. Tee times will still be 20 minutes apart and will require a reservation.
Reservations can be made by calling the respective course’s pro shop seven days in advance or reserving on GolfNow. One foursome reservation per phone call. Credit card and debit cards will be taken for payment as there is no cash option at this time.
Atlantis’ last tee time will be 5:20 p.m. and the last cart needs to be in 15 minutes prior to sunset (posted at pro shop). The driving range at Atlantis is open and driving range golf balls will be sanitized. Every other stall will be utilized.
The Forge Pond Pro shop closes at 5 p.m. and the last cart needs to be in at 4:45 p.m. Carts are still limited to one rider per cart, excluding an individual’s immediate family member, caretakers, household members, or romantic partner. All social distancing rules are in effect and a mask must be worn to approach the counter for payment.
Haines said, “restrictions at our parks and our golf courses are in place to protect the health and safety of the patrons that are visiting us along with our staff.”
“While we understand some may feel this is nothing but an inconvenience, we are still in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic and must take all the steps we can to limit anyone’s exposure to this virus,” Haines said.
In addition, the county in following the state’s requirements has capped parking at 50 percent. When a park’s parking lot is at capacity, park patrons should not park on streets or the grass.
“We encourage everyone to adhere to the requirements we have put in place to reopen the parks,” she said. Parks are open from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily.
Singles tennis/pickleball is allowed at Ocean County Park, Lakewood, Jakes Branch County Park, Beachwood and Tip Seaman County Park, Tuckerton. Tennis is allowed at Beaver Dam County Park, Point Pleasant. There are restrictions on play.
“We encourage everyone using our parks to be mindful of themselves and their neighbors and continue to take precautions at this time including social distancing, washing your hands, wearing face masks and staying home if you are sick,” Haines said.
Ocean County closed its parks and natural lands to the public on March 31 due to the outbreak of the coronavirus and based on the mandates from President Donald H. Trump and Gov. Phil Murphy for social distancing and stay at home orders.
Ocean County Freeholder Director Joseph H. Vicari said, “we want everyone to enjoy our parks and natural lands safely. The health and safety of our residents and visitors is paramount.”
“It’s important that we continue to follow social distancing rules. We all need to remember that our actions don’t affect just us, they affect our family, they affect our health care workers, they affect our emergency responders, they affect the workers at our grocery stores,” Vicari said.
He added, “we need to continue to do our part to stop the spread of this virus.”
Ocean County had 8,147 cases of coronavirus as of May 21.
The County’s parks and recreation areas are patrolled by the Ocean County Sheriff’s Office and Ocean County Security Department.