WEST WINDSOR, NJ --  As more social and recreational destinations are reopening across New Jersey, many families are staying local spending time and county and neighborhood parks. That means the Mercer County Parks Commission has had to overcome hurdles in ensuring that visitors are safe and protected from the spread of COVID-19 (coronavirus.) 

Speaking with TAPinto Hamilton/Robbinsville, Commission Executive Director Aaron Watson urged individuals who are visiting the numerous park facilities to "Do your part, be smart" and observe safe and healthy practices while enjoying their recreational time. 

During recent weeks, the Mercer County Parks Commission has reopened hiking and biking trails, golf courses, riding stables, and the marina and tennis centers.  Ball fields, however, will remain closed until the end of July with no league play. 

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On July 2, Playgrounds in the West Picnic area; South Riverwalk Park; Rosedale Park; and the Equestrian Center will open. Additional playgrounds will be open in the coming weeks. 

But, the reopening of these facilities bring new challenges for the Parks staff to consider in keeping kids and parents safe. 

The Parks Director said they are working with county and local health officials and Centers for Disease Control (CDC) to put in place proper cleaning practices.  

Watson said that the playgrounds will be disinfected early in the morning and "deep-cleaned" in the late afternoon. While he is "concerned whether the public is going to adhere to social distancing." there will be signage at the playgrounds reminding people to keep their distance, wear a face covering, and wash their hands. 

He said that Park Rangers will not be harassing people but will be reminding park-goers of social distancing guidelines if there are egregious situations. 

Watson added that programming at the parks are "ramping up with many virtual programs now" but he is "concerned about people getting lax in their thinking.

"We are thinking about different ways to reopen in-person programming with an abundance of caution and being judicious with taxpayer dollars," said Watson. "People's health is the most important thing as we find other ways to enjoy our parks." 

The playground at the Mercer County Marina will remain closed while construction is underway on a splash park set to open at the end of July. The Commission is also looking to possibly develop a rope course in the fall and re-imagining the popular bike share program safely.  

Watson noted that the campgrounds at Mercer County Parks are open and taking reservations.  Picnic areas also are busy with family and friends enjoying the outdoors together.  

Activities that may come to the County Parks include multiple drive-thru movies and a drive-thru concert, he said.

The popular River Days Festival will be taking place again this year at a date to be determined. Other festivals that typically occur in the fall are being reviewed on a month-to-month basis.  

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