While all state and county parks have been closed in the state by Gov. Phil Murphy, many area municipal parks remain open for limited activities.

The governor signed an executive order on April 7 closing all historic sites and the parks to discourage people from gathering in the facilities and increasing the chance of spreading the coronavirus. The order did not apply to municipal parks.

Park equipment is fenced off in a small neighborhood park in Lawrence Township. (Staff photo by Rob Anthes.)

As of April 9, all parks in Bordentown City, Hamilton, Hightstown, Ewing and Plainsboro are closed until further notice. The closures were confirmed by police or municipal officials in each of the towns. 

Meanwhile, activity in playgrounds, dog parks, skate parks, and the use of exercise equipment have been banned in all parks by local officials. Most municipalities have affixed yellow caution tape or put up fencing at park amenities where access is prohibited.

The following is a status report of municipal parks in communities within our coverage area:

Bordentown City: All parks are closed.

Bordentown Township: According to the township’s website, park facilities are closed, but paths are open to walkers and bikers. Strict social distancing is advised.

East Windsor: Pathways and trails remain open, subject to restrictions. ”We will monitor for compliance and any need for further local actions,” states the township website. “Park visitors are reminded to comply with all social distancing requirements.”

Group close-contact activities, including games of basketball and soccer, which do not comply with state social distancing requirements are prohibited. Residents are asked to call the police department’s non-emergency line at (609) 448-5678, ext. 0, to report any observed non-compliance issues.

Ewing Township: All parks are closed.

Hamilton Township: All parks are closed.

Hightstown: All parks are closed.

Hopewell Valley: The mayors of Hopewell Township, Hopewell Borough and Pennington have announced they are keeping parks open for now.

“After careful consideration, and consultation with our health officer, we have decided that Hopewell Valley residents will benefit if certain local parks remain open for limited purposes,” said a joint statement by officials in all three communities

“The stay at home order does not ban walking outdoors,” says the statement. “Unlike other parts of the state, the Hopewell Valley is not densely populated. We have an extensive network of 45 miles of trails (not including county and state owned lands), and people should be able to use those trails while maintaining the requirements for social distancing.”

The Lawrence-Hopewell Trail winds through multiple municipalities over lands owned by numerous other entities. People are asked to check the LHT website for the most up to date information on segments that are open.

“Our decision to keep certain parks open works only if residents agree to follow recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control regarding social distancing (at least six feet) and facial coverings when appropriate,” says the statement. “Simply put, if the rules are not followed, the parks will be closed immediately and not reopened so long as the Governor’s executive order closing state and county parks is in effect.”

Lawrence: Municipal manager Kevin Nerwinski announced on his blog site that township parks currently remain open. He said that at first he feared the closure of state, county and other towns’ parks would cause an unsafe increase in usage of Lawrence parks. He consulted with Police Chief Brian Caloiaro in making a decision.

“The chief and I concluded that we should keep the parks open but closely monitor them over the next couple of days,” Nerwinski said. “To increase police presence in our parks during this time, and that the officers will be actively addressing gatherings of three people or more. But will do this from a distance to not unnecessarily put them in a situation risking exposure to the virus for a non-law enforcement situation for now.”

Plainsboro Township: All parks are closed. The walking trails remain open in the Plainsboro Preserve, according to township administrator Anthony Cancro.

Princeton: The town announced in a Twitter post that municipal parks would remain open until further notice for walking, biking, hiking and jogging. “Please continue social distancing practices and wear a face covering when outside of your home,” the tweet said.

Closed are community garden plots; playgrounds and sand boxes; tennis, platform tennis and basketball courts; and park restrooms.

Robbinsville: Township spokesman John Nalbone said all township parks are currently open, but playground areas remain closed.

“Mayor Fried fundamentally believes our residents need a venue to exercise as long as everyone practices social responsible distancing,” Nalbone said. “If any gatherings or other activities are ruled non-compliant of either Gov. Murphy’s order or that of the Robbinsville Township Office of Emergency Management, they will be addressed by the Robbinsville Township Police Department.”

Trenton: The Trenton Police Department said that city parks are open to pedestrians or bikers for exercise, but loitering and gatherings by groups of individuals is prohibited.

West Windsor: “I have decided to keep West Windsor parks open for now only for individual activities,” said Township Mayor Hemant Marathe in a post on Facebook. “The playgrounds are still closed. We have not opened the restrooms nor activated the water fountains.”

“I have been visiting the community park regularly,” he added. “I am pleased to observe that people are using the park to exercise while maintaining social distance. If the residents continue to exercise their freedom in a responsible manner, we will be able to use the parks without violating CDC guidelines. Please do your part and allow us to keep our parks open to the residents while we fight this virus.”