HUNTERDON COUNTY, NJ - Hunterdon County Parks Division Head Dan Bush explained to the Board of Chosen Freeholders July 21 that in these summer months county parks staff have been aware of issues involving large groups gathering in county parks, as well as concerns for adequate and illegal parking, observations of litter and swimming where it isn’t permitting.

The Parks Department will keep monitoring for violations and disruptions and will promote public safety measures, but Bush was quick to point out that at this point, county staff are not recommending closure of any Hunterdon County parks.

“We continue to be in contact with our local police departments, and have station rangers as needed at a few locations, and our signage displaying protocols and mandates is located prominently at all county park locations,” he said. “We continue to educate and enforce people on our parks’ rules and regulations.”

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Freeholder J. Matthew Holt noted that groups gathering have had a negative economic effect all across New Jersey, citing the example of many patrons crowded together at outside Jersey Shore bars without face coverings that prompted Gov. Phil Murphy to “pull back” on easing regulations to allow restaurants to open indoor dining at reduced capacities. Holt was making a point on the economic impacts of losing key restaurant businesses in the county, but he mentioned that in the large group gatherings, COVID-19 could have a greater chance to spread.

Also during the July 21 meeting, Bush provided the board with an update on procedures and activities taking place this summer. Of note, many parks and recreation staff videos and content sharing have taken place since the height of the COVID-19 pandemic in May, and virtual camps and educational summer programs have continued for Hunterdon residents.

Several of the educational programs feature Chief Hunterdon County Park Naturalist Tom Sheppard, and parks staffers made YouTube videos families have viewed on topics from guided nature walks to birds, snakes and amphibians.

“Our parks staff continues to do a great job of communicating with the public and offering people a large variety of virtual programming, including about summer nature,” he said. “In our parks since the spring, we’ve experienced volume higher than normal. Deer Path Park (Woodschurch Road, Flemington) as well as Mountain Farm at Teetertown Preserve and Hoffman Park continue to see higher than normal activity, and our patrons at these locations continue to follow social distancing guidelines and they’ve done a nice job of monitoring their own behavior.”

Some investments to benefit the visitors of county parks were made official, with the board approving new 20x30-foot pavilions for park-goers.

Bush said the two new pavilions are for Hoffman Park in Union Township, west of Clinton off I-78, and for Teetertown Preserve Mountain Farm in Lebanon Township.

According to Bush, both of these new pavilions will be located near parking areas, and they will also be in conformance with the Green Acres standards.

“These pavilions will offer visitors the shelter to enjoy the solitude all around them for the four seasons,” he said. “The parks are very popular for fishing, hiking and bird-watching, and currently we offer no opportunity for our visitors to escape the weather and outdoor elements.”