BRIDGEWATER, NJ - The Somerset County Park Commission announced the cancellation of the rest of its events through 2020, including the Independence Day fireworks and the Summer Concert Series.
The Somerset County Park Commission announced the cancellation of the great majority of its events, programs and activities for the remainder of 2020 because of the financial and health impacts of COVID-19.
According to a release, the welfare of employees and patrons, as well as uncertainties with the pandemic's long-term fall outs – including required closure of the commission's revenue-producing golf facilities, the need for social distancing, the impact of the budget and more – have led to the decision.
According to the release, the commission generates a significant amount of revenue to operate special use parks, maintain general use parks and provide programming through the system from golf revenue. But with the golf facilities closed due to the pandemic, the release said, the commission must take steps to ensure its financial well-being.
"The decision to cancel some really unique experiences that have been enjoyed by Somerset County residents for decades has not been made lightly, but without the significant revenue that we are able to generate from golf fees, depending on how long our golf courses remain closed, we will have a budget gap to fill that puts the maintenance of our other park facilities at risk," Park Commission President Mark Caliguire said in the release. "Given the unparalleled global circumstances arising from the COVID-19 pandemic and the utmost concern for the safety and well-being of our staff members, the thousands of acres of parks and open space that we steward, and those individuals who contribute to our programs, the commission whole-heartedly believes that this is the best course for the remainder of the year."
Event cancellations include the Rose Day Festival at the Rudolf W. van der Goot Rose Garden at Colonial Park; the Independence Day fireworks at North Branch Park; the Summer Concert Series at Duke Island Park; the 1770s Festival at Lord Stirling Park; and the Holiday Festival at Lord Stirling Stable.
Programming for the remainder of the year has been canceled at the Environmental Education Center in Basking Ridge; the Lord Stirling Stable in Basking Ridge; the Green Knoll Tennis Center in Bridgewater; and the Therapeutic Recreation Program in Bridgewater. In addition, the release said, the Warrenbrook Pool in Warren, and the Putting Course, Paddle Boats and Spray Park at Colonial Park in Franklin will stay closed for the season.
According to the release, once the executive order has been lifted by the governor, the Park Commission plans to reopen the golf courses, with changes to be made to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. But, the release said, the junior golf program has been canceled for this year.
"This terrible pandemic has affected so many individuals, families and organizations," Park Commission Secretary-Director Geoff Soriano said in the release. "Our golf facilities are the commission's financial lifeline as revenue generated from golf helps to fund much of our other departmental programming. The loss of golf revenue for the better part of March and April has severely compromised the Park Commission's functionality, and we are optimistically awaiting the day when we can open our first tees to our loyal golfing patrons. We've put a plan in place, and will be ready to pivot if circumstances change either for the better of the worse."
Updates can be found at somersetcountyparks.org.