Following the executive order signed by Governor Phil Murphy signed on Wednesday to open up all State and County parks (giving them the option to do so), many in the state have followed suit.

Monmouth County announced a plan to open up its parks on Wednesday and today Ocean County has done the same and intends on doing so gradually over time.

The parks will begin to gradually open up for recreation as will the 2-county golf courses in Ocean County starting this Saturday May 2, Freeholder Ginny Haines who is the Chairwoman of the OC Department of Parks and Recreation announced on Thursday.

“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," Haines said. “It’s important to note that this action in no way means the coronavirus pandemic is over. 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.”

Freeholder Haines said that parks that are scheduled to reopen on Saturday 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 will also be open to the public.

These parks will be open from 6:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. daily.

“These locations are open to the public for walking, jogging, biking. It’s all passive recreation which allows for social distancing," Haines said. “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. As per the Governor’s executive order there cannot be any large gatherings, no sporting activities or picnics allowed at this time.”

Parking at the golf courses and parks will be limited to 50-percent.

Haines said 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 7:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

“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. 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," Joe Vicari, Ocean County Freeholder Director, said.

The Ocean County Sheriff’s Office and Ocean County Security Department will continue to patrol all the county parks during this time.

Municipalities do not fall under the same executive order and can re-open their parks and golf courses at any time they feel is the safest to do so.

Toms River Mayor Maurice "Mo" Hill made an announcement on Thursday to reopen the township's 18 municipal parks along with the Bey Lea Golf Course on Saturday morning that also have the same restrictions as Governor Murphy's executive order (133).

The Township’s 18 municipal parks and the Bey Lea Golf Course will reopen sunrise on Saturday, May 2, 2020, following Executive Order 133, announced by Governor Murphy’s office yesterday.

Bey Lea Golf Course is adopting the following social distancing policies:

· Implementing electronic or telephone reservation and payment systems while still providing options for populations that do not have access to internet service or credit cards.

· Extending tee times to sixteen minutes apart.

· Limiting the use of golf carts to one person unless being shared by immediate family members, caretakers, household members, or romantic partners.

· Requiring frequent, and after each use, sanitization of high-touch areas such as restroom facilities, range buckets, golf carts, and push carts.

· Restricting the touching of golf holes and flags.

· Closing golf center buildings, pro shops, and other buildings and amenities.

· Removing bunker rakes and other furniture-like benches, water coolers, and ball washers from the course.

· Discontinuing club and equipment rentals.

· Prohibiting the use of caddies.

· Limiting tee times to two players unless the foursome consists of immediate family, caretakers, household members or romantic partners.

Restrooms at the golf course will be open and sanitized as well as all golf carts.

Mayor Hill said that the golf course may impose additional restrictions as necessary to limit person-to-person interactions.

Township officials and the Toms River Police Department will be in charge of making sure people following social distancing and parking guidelines.

“I, along with other Ocean County mayors have been encouraging Governor Murphy to reopen our parks and golf courses," Mayor Hill said. "The outdoors, exercise, sunshine and fresh air are all good for people’s immune systems and health. I am glad that the State took the first step in starting to reopen our facilities."

In Lakewood, Mayor Ray Coles announced that all parks in the township and the lake are open as of today, with the exception of Pine Park.

All playgrounds will remain closed for the time being.

Mayor Coles said that Pine Park is being used for food distribution so it will be open on Saturday and Sunday only.

“It’s very important that we keep the disease curve on the downward trend. In order to do that, we have to keep staying six (6) feet apart from each other; wear masks if possible; try not to touch your face – all the things that should have become second nature to you by now," Coles said in a statement. “With the nice weather coming, hopefully, we’ll all be able to get out and wave to each other from across the street!  So again – enjoy the parks; but, please, maintain your distance, wear a mask if at all possible, and stay safe.  I just can’t wait for us all to get back to normal.”

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