OCEAN COUNTY will reopen three more of its County parks on May 7.
"Today, I am announcing the reopening of Cattus Island County Park, Toms River Township, Cloverdale County Park, Barnegat Township and Tip Seaman County Park, Tuckerton, starting Thursday, May 7," said Ocean County Freeholder Virginia E. Haines, Chairwoman of Ocean County Parks and Recreation. "I want to stress these parks are being reopened for passive recreation – walking, jogging, hiking, running and similar activities. Visitors must maintain social distancing and adhere to the other requirements set in place for the safety of the public and our County staff."
The three additional parks have been added to the seven other parks reopened by the County on May 2 along with its two golf courses, the Barnegat Branch Trail, and its natural land sites.
In addition, singles tennis/pickleball will be allowed at Ocean County Park, Lakewood, Jakes Branch County Park, Beachwood and Tip Seaman County Park, Tuckerton, at this time based on Gov. Murphy's recommendations. There will be restrictions placed on play.
"I believe it's important to again emphasize that reopening our parks in no way means the coronavirus pandemic is over," Haines said. "And while we want to provide safe and large open spaces for our residents to spend time outside, especially with warm weather coming, we also want to urge everyone that they need to be mindful of themselves and their neighbors and continue to take precautions at this time.
"We continue to see increases in the number of new cases of coronavirus in Ocean County and sadly we also see the number of people who have died from this increase in Ocean County," Haines said. "What we are asking you to do as far as social distancing, washing your hands and wearing face masks is not merely feel good suggestions, it could very well keep you and your loved ones healthy and virus free."
Parks maintained by Ocean County that reopened on May 2 were 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 also reopened for play. And, the Barnegat Branch Trail which starts at Burr Street in Barnegat Township and travels north toward Toms River reopened to the public.
"The opening of these locations provided more than 2,000 acres of park space for 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 our other smaller parks," Haines said. "As per the Governor's executive order there cannot be any large gatherings, no sporting events or picnics allowed at this time."
In addition parking will continue to be capped at 50 percent and 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."
The parks that have been reopened are open from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily.
Haines noted that residents can use the county golf courses by prepaid reservation only with restrictions including no groups larger than two players.
"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 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 7,060 cases of coronavirus as of May 5.
The Ocean County Sheriff's Office and Ocean County Security Department will continue to patrol all the county parks during this time.