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Hightstown parks closed, East Windsor parks open

Following the lead of Gov. Phil Murphy, who shut down New Jersey’s state parks and county parks April 8, Hightstown Borough has closed its five municipal parks.

But East Windsor officials are keeping the walking paths – but not the playgrounds – open in its municipal parks. The governor’s executive order does not affect town-maintained parks.

East Windsor officials said the township will monitor the parks for compliance with restrictions, such as maintaining social distance. The only permitted activities in the parks are walking, running and bicycling, or engaging in outdoor activities with immediate family members, caregivers, household members or romantic partners.

Playground areas are closed and have been fenced off. Basketball, soccer and other close-contact sports are prohibited in the township’s parks.

East Windsor maintains more than a dozen municipal parks. Bear Brook Pathway, Disbrow Hill Trail, Etra Lake Pathway, Rocky Brook Pathway and Turnpike Park have walking paths or trails.

Murphy issued an executive order April 8 that closed the state and county parks to reduce the spread of COVID-19. More than 51,000 New Jersey residents had tested positive for COVID-19, and 1,700 people had died of the disease as of April 8, according to the New Jersey Department of Health. New Jersey has a population of nearly 9 million people.

Murphy said there have been many instances in state parks where people had gathered to socialize in groups, disobeying orders to maintain “social distancing” of six feet apart.

Catherine McCabe, commissioner of the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, said the state agency regretted closing the parks. It was not a decision that was made lightly, she said.

“We understand New Jerseyans particularly need fresh air and exercise during this stressful time, but as the weather warms, our parks are becoming crowded and it is difficult to observe the social distancing that is so critical to fighting COVID-19,” McCabe said.

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