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Guest Opinion: Good News, Gov. Murphy Reopens State & County Parks

“This is great news that Governor Murphy is reopening state and county parks. People need their exercise especially at a time when they have been hemmed in. Open space is critical for a time like this. It's good to get some fresh air and sunshine, especially with the warm weather coming. Murphy made Good Newsthe right decision to close parks in early April, it has served its purpose. While opening our parks is a step in the right direction, it is important to keep social distancing practices. We are still in a health emergency and the public needs to abide by the rules so that we can enjoy the outdoors for the future,” said Jeff Tittel, Director of the New Jersey Sierra Club.  “Governor Murphy opening our parks is good news and long overdue.”

On April 7, 2020 Governor Murphy signed Executive Order 118 directing all state parks and forests to close until further notice. This closure applies to all park lots, grounds, facilities, trails, and playgrounds. His order to re-open county, state parks, and golf courses will be in effect on May 2nd.

“We agreed with Governor Murphy when he closed the parks and glad that he is re-opening them. Last week we asked the administration to start opening the parks. Our parks were closed mainly because they were becoming overcrowded and people were gathering for picnics, climbing on playgrounds, instead of practicing proper social distancing. Governor Murphy was right to close state parks in early April. It was an important step to handle the public emergency. Now that county and state parks are open, we need to enjoy the treasures of NJ responsibly,” said Tittel.  “It’s good that Murphy will open some parks and allow half of the people to visit, while keeping social distancing. It is important for New Jersey to open state, county, and local parks with consistency to avoid parks of becoming overcrowded.”

New Jersey is not the first state to close state parks. Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, New Mexico, Oregon, and Texas have also closed all of their state parks. Other states, like California, North Carolina, Washington, and Wisconsin have closed some of their state parks.

“We supported Governor Murphy’s decision to close our parks and forests because of the cutbacks. We are the Nation’s oldest and largest conservation group and we felt that it was important to practice social distancing given the severity of the outbreak. But now as it is getting warmer, it’s good that New Jersey is slowly phasing in reopening parks for passive recreation and hiking while maintaining social distancing. We have always felt that passive walking and hiking should be allowed like Pennsylvania and New York are doing with a limited park system,” said Jeff Tittel, Director of the New Jersey Sierra Club. “It is important for people to get out and enjoy nature, especially now. These parks belong to all of us. With them slowly being re-opened, people get to be with their families in the outdoors. People need to enjoy the environment, and they will appreciate even more now after being quarantined at home.”