DEP offers tips for social distancing when visiting state parks

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New Jersey residents visiting state parks, forests and wildlife management areas are urged to follow specific practices to promote social distancing and prevent the further spread of COVID-19, Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Catherine R. McCabe reiterated.

State parks and forest trails are open, but all buildings, including bathrooms, are closed. All public shooting ranges also are closed until further notice. Visitors are reminded to keep a minimum 6-foot distance from others during their visits, according to a press release.

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“Our parks and forests remain open for passive recreation,” McCabe said. “New Jersey residents need access to spaces for outdoor recreation more than ever for the opportunity to take a break from time indoors and for physical exercise.

“We encourage these visits as long as the public is mindful of keeping their distance from others, and we thank our conservation partners for their efforts in promoting how to enjoy nature safely.”

Entrance fees are not being charged at state parks and forests. Trails are open for exercise such as walking, fishing, hiking and biking as long as social distancing requirements are observed, according to the press release.

The DEP and the Division of Parks and Forestry offer the following tips for enjoying New Jersey’s parks while protecting public health:

Make space for others on the trails. To protect yourself and other park visitors while on trails, visitors should warn other users of their presence when passing by. As others pass, step aside for them;

Go solo – or with immediate family. Visit parks with family members from your household or for solo activities such as dog-walking or biking. Follow carry-in/carry-out guidelines by cleaning up after your pet and taking home with you any trash;

Give yourself – and others – space. Do not gather in groups of 10 or more and maintain a 6-foot distance from others at all times. If the recommended distance is not possible, go to another area of the park or visit the park another time;

Drop your line, keep your distance. As warmer weather and the spring trout fishing season approaches, anglers are reminded that the 6-foot distance rule remains in effect. If the required distance cannot be maintained, find another area to fish;

Go before you go. As park restrooms are closed, use the restroom before visiting a park. Do not attempt to open bathroom or other facility doors, which are locked;

Stay away from playground equipment and parks facilities. All playground equipment and all park buildings such as nature centers, bathrooms, offices and historic buildings are closed. Events have been canceled and all upcoming camping reservations through April 30 have been canceled. Camping reservations will be refunded in full and new camping reservations will not be accepted.

Individuals should visit cdc.gov and covid19.nj.gov for the most recent recommendations to protect themselves and others from spreading COVID-19.

New Jersey State Park Police and State Park Service are patrolling properties and will reinforce social distancing guidelines to help promote New Jersey’s public health and safety, according to the press release.

State Park Police may be reached via the 24-hour dispatch center at 1-877-WARN-DEP (1-877-927-6337).

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