OCEAN COUNTY will gradually reopen its parks for passive recreation along with its golf courses starting Saturday, May 2, according to Ocean County Freeholder Virginia E. Haines, Chairwoman of the Ocean County Department of Parks and Recreation.
“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,” Haines said. “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.
“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 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, and Freedom Fields, Little Egg Harbor Township. The Ocean County Golf Course at Atlantis, in Little Egg Harbor Township and Forge Pond County Golf Course in Brick Township will be reopened for play. And, 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.
These parks will be open from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily.
“These locations are open to the public for walking, jogging, biking,” Haines said. “It’s all passive recreation which allows for social distancing.
“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 addition parking will be capped at 50 percent and wearing face coverings is strongly suggested, according to the Governor’s executive order.
“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.
Golf course hours will be from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m.
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 Trump and Gov. Murphy for social distancing and stay at home orders.
“We maintain more than 4,000 acres of county parkland and 30,000 acres of natural lands,” Haines said. “Our natural lands will also be reopen to the public on Saturday.”
“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.”
Ocean County has 6,268 cases of coronavirus as of April 29.
The Ocean County Sheriff’s Office and Ocean County Security Department will continue to patrol all the county parks during this time.