State parks and golf courses can reopen this weekend, Gov. Phil Murphy said on Wednesday.
Parks were closed statewide on April 7 to curb the spread of coronavirus. Murphy announced a plan for reopening them during a Wednesday briefing.
** VOTE: Too soon or par for the course? Should NJ wait to reopen parks, golf courses? **
The reopening order will take effect at sunrise on Saturday, Murphy said. The governor said he will leave it up to counties to reopen their parks.
"I am pleased to make this order today,'' Murphy said, noting milder weather predicted this weekend.
Parking lots will be at 50 percent capacity, Murphy said, and "a strong recommendation" of wearing face coverings. Masks may be mandated if social distancing recommendations are not followed.
"We're going to be looking up and down the state this weekend,'' Murphy said. "Please enjoy the parks."
The governor said no decision has been made on when to reopen beaches, which is ultimately left up to municipalities.
Reopening parks is the first concrete step taken toward re-opening the state. Murphy announced a roadmap for reopening the state earlier this week but stopped short of providing a timeline of when things like parks and businesses could resume operation.
There has been rising pressure on Murphy to reverse course on the parks closure.
A bipartisan group of state senators, including Senate President Stephen Sweeney, released a plan on Monday urging the opening of parks and resuming operation of low-risk businesses like construction and car sales. Murphy came back with his own general plan for reopening the Garden State.
State Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Catherine McCabe said earlier this month park officers had to disperse nearly 200 gatherings — including a wedding — and break up fights over spaces in crowded parking lots.
Municipal governments have, throughout the COVID-19 crisis, been able to decide whether to close their local parks. Last weekend, Jersey City announced a plan to re-open five parks with restrictions on gatherings beginning on Monday.
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