OCEAN COUNTY – Spring was certainly calling residents stuck inside during the pandemic. Soon parks will be able to answer that call.
Gov. Phil Murphy signed an Executive Order reopening all state parks. He also let counties choose whether to open their parks and golf courses.
Ocean County will open two golf courses and several parks, but not all of them.
Parks and courses that are scheduled to reopen on May 2 are:
- Wells Mills County Park, Waretown
- John C. Bartlett Jr. County Park at Berkeley Island
- Jakes Branch County Park, Beachwood
- Ocean County Park and Lake Shenandoah County Park, both in Lakewood
- Patriots County Park, Jackson Township
- Freedom Fields, Little Egg Harbor Township
- The Ocean County Golf Course at Atlantis, in Little Egg Harbor Township
- Forge Pond County Golf Course in Brick Township
- The Barnegat Branch Trail which starts at Burr Street in Barnegat Township and travels north toward Toms River also will be open to the public.
“I am pleased to announce the reopening of several of our county parks starting Saturday. This includes our two golf courses and our natural lands,” said Ocean County Freeholder Virginia E. Haines, Chairwoman of the Ocean County Department of Parks and Recreation. “There will be restrictions in place as we go forward to maintain social distancing. These restrictions are for the health and safety of everyone returning to our parks and open spaces.
The parks had been closed since March 31.
“It’s important to note that this action in no way means the coronavirus pandemic is over,” she said. “Rather we want to provide safe and large open spaces for our residents to spend time outside, especially with warm weather coming, and these steps will allow that.”
Parks will be open from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily. Golf course hours will be from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m.
These spaces are open for passive recreation only. In other words, activities like walking, jogging, and biking. It’s not for team sports or playgrounds.
“Our playgrounds, public bathrooms, nature centers, and pavilions will remain closed to the public as will the dog parks and some of our smaller parks,” Haines said. “As per the Governor’s executive order there cannot be any large gatherings, no sporting activities or picnics allowed at this time.”
In order to enforce social distancing, parking will be capped at 50 percent, Haines said. Wearing face coverings is strongly suggested.
“We encourage everyone to adhere to the requirements we have put in place to reopen the parks,” she said. “In time we look forward to reopening all of our parks. We think this is a good start.”
Haines noted that residents can use the county golf courses by prepaid reservation only with restrictions including no groups larger than twosomes.
“If you want a tee time you need to make a reservation,” Haines said.
“We are following Gov. Murphy’s requirements that he outlined for reopening the state parks,” said Ocean County Freeholder Director Joseph H. Vicari. “It’s important that we do this right. We want to see the numbers continue to trend downward of people getting COVID-19. We need to stay the course but we also realize people need opportunities for passive recreation for their overall health.
“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. “We need to all continue to do our part to stop the spread of this virus.”
The Ocean County Sheriff’s Office and Ocean County Security Department will continue to patrol all the county parks during this time.