THREE MORE Ocean County Parks – Enos Pond County Park, Lacey Township, Mill Creek County Park, Berkeley Township, and Lochiel Creek County Park, Barnegat Township – will reopen to visitors on May 14.
"As we continue to follow our plan to gradually reopen all 27 of our County parks, I again want to stress these parks are being reopened for passive recreation only – walking, jogging, hiking, running and similar activities," said Ocean County Freeholder Virginia E. Haines, Chairwoman of the Ocean County Department of Parks and Recreation. "Park 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 10 other parks gradually reopened by the County since May 2 along with its two golf courses, the Barnegat Branch Trail, and its natural land sites.
Parks maintained by Ocean County that have reopened are Cattus Island County Park, Toms River Township, Cloverdale County Park, Barnegat Township, Tip Seaman County Park, Tuckerton, 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 has 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.
"Our playgrounds, public bathrooms, nature centers, and pavilions will remain closed to the public as will the dog parks and some other smaller parks," Haines said. "As per the Governor's executive order there cannot be any large gatherings, no sporting events, picnics or barbecues allowed at this time."
In addition, the county in following the state's requirements has capped parking at 50 percent. When the park parking lot is at capacity, park patrons should not park on streets or the grass. It is also strongly suggested that face coverings should be worn.
"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 are from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m.
In addition, singles tennis/pickleball is now 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 including social distancing, washing your hands, wearing face masks and staying home if you are sick."
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 want everyone to enjoy our parks and natural lands safely," said Ocean County Freeholder Director Joseph H. Vicari. "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."
"We need to all continue to do our part to stop the spread of this virus," Vicari said.
Ocean County has 7,558 cases of coronavirus as of May 11.
The Ocean County Sheriff's Office and Ocean County Security Department will continue to patrol all the county parks during this time.