Looking to give residents some degree of relief so that they can get outside and exercise, Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop has announced that he will seek to open some of the city’s parks to the public.
“We closed the parks early on to keep people safe, which helped slow the spread of the virus,” said Fulop. “After nearly 2 months of quarantine, there’s also a mental and physical health aspect that needs to be considered, and we know we can’t ask our residents, who rely on parks for outdoor access, to stay inside indefinitely. We believe now is an appropriate time to responsibly provide residents with that public health outlet in a controlled setting, especially as the weather warms.”
Since municipal parks were closed in March in the face of the deadly COVID-19 pandemic, area politicians have been under relentless pressure from residents and advocacy groups to re-open any form of recreational space. Even as rates of infection and fatalities climbed, vocal members of the community continued to demand a place for recreation—pointing out that other cities around the country/world were taking steps to open streets.
Mayor de Blasio says NYC can’t safely open streets to pedestrians and cyclists during coronavirus lockdown. But former city officials, epidemiologists, and others say it can be done—and the City Council has a plan.https://t.co/qYT0GYB3t1
— Gothamist (@Gothamist) April 22, 2020
Officials held the line that our area’s unique population density, and a demonstrated inability to adhere to social distancing protocols made opening spaces a concern. Reports of overcrowding eventually prompted Governor Phil Murphy to shut down Liberty State Park—our area’s widest open space.
— hMAG (@hMAG) April 7, 2020
In a follow-up statement on social media, Fulop says, “We aren’t pushing to open everything BUT we also need to slowly shift the conversation towards a gradual return to living life. We want to take careful ‘baby steps’ forward as this is important to mental health.”
According to a statement form the City of Jersey City:
One Division of Parks and Forestry employee and one Recreation Division employee will be assigned to each park to ensure cleanliness, safe social distancing, and proper park usage with added patrol from the Jersey City Police Department. A face covering must be worn at all times, gloves are recommended.
As of Monday, April 27th, the following five parks spanning the city will reopen with restrictions:
- Enos Jones Park
- Berry Lane Park
- Audubon Park
- Leonard Gordon Park
- Pershing Field
Prior to reopening, city crews will deep clean the parks in an abundance of caution. Starting Monday, city officials will reserve the right to limit entry to the park if overcrowding becomes a concern, and will remove park-goers if improper behavior takes place. The city continues to encourage anyone who feels sick to stay home.
No organized sports will be permitted in an effort to maintain health and safety protocols. Playground equipment, dog runs, basketball hoops, and other active recreation equipment will still remain closed. Restrooms and any indoor facilities will also remain closed to public access. Dog walkers are also asked to keep all dogs on leashes and curb all dogs before entering the park.
The Administration is planning a second phase of park openings in mid-May so that more residents have access to recreational space while adhering to the health and safety mandates in place.