May 6, 2020

Mercer County Reopens Parks and Golf Courses, With Restrictions

PARK PERFECTION: Mercer County Park in West Windsor is among the public parks and golf courses now open to visitors, but with certain restrictions in place.

By Anne Levin

Last week, Gov. Phil Murphy signed an executive order reopening state parks and golf courses closed due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. The order, which went into effect May 2, allows county governments to determine which of their parks to make available to the public again.

Mercer County opted to reopen county parks and golf courses for passive recreation only. That means walking, running, fishing, biking, and boating on the lake in Mercer County Park are permitted. But public gatherings and sports events are still off limits. Social distancing is being enforced.

“We understand that New Jerseyans want to get outside and get some fresh air as the weather warms up,” Murphy said last week. “However, this should not serve as an open invitation to rush back to normalcy and break the necessary social distancing measures we’ve put in place. This approach will also bring New Jersey in line with our neighboring states, which will discourage residents from needlessly crossing state lines for recreation.”

State parks and forests have similar specifications. They are open for fishing, hunting, boating, canoeing, hiking, walking, running or jogging, biking, birdwatching, and horseback riding. But picnic areas, playgrounds, swimming, pavilions, restrooms, and visitor centers are closed. Social distancing is required except with family members, romantic partners, or caretakers. No sports or contact activities are allowed.

The county’s four golf courses are open and operating at reduced capacity. Tee times are extended to 16 minutes apart, and the use of golf carts is limited to one person unless being shared by immediate family members, caretakers, household members, or romantic partners. Pro shops and other buildings remain closed. Benches, water coolers, and ball washers have been removed. The use of caddies is prohibited.

Murphy wants those visiting parks and golf courses to wear face coverings, though it is not mandated as part of the executive order. But officials have the right to mandate the wearing of face coverings depending on how well people maintain social distancing and other recommendations on staying safe.

“To be clear, we can’t have everyone rush out to a park or golf course,” Murphy said. “Social distancing will be strongly enforced. We want you to stay close to home. Go to a park that is near you.”