GREEN BROOK, NJ - The Somerset County Park Commission has closed Washington Rock State Park, after it re-opened briefly last weekend over concerns with social distancing and potential for spreading the coronavirus (COVID-19).
Perched on the edge of the Watchung Mountains, the facility is a popular destination and is known for its panoramic views of central New Jersey; on a clear day, the New York City skyline comes into view. It also features heavily wooded hiking trails and picnic tables..
With the need to assure that park patrons follow the social distancing rules set forth by Gov, Phil Murphy and to protect the health and welfare of visitors and employees, the decision was made to close the facility based on its small size and location.
The strategic location of Washington Rock made it a valuable lookout point during the American Revolution for General George Washington in June of 1777 when the British army under General William Howe was moving toward Westfield. From the vantage point of this natural rock outcropping, General Washington had a thirty-mile panoramic view of the valley and was able to instruct his troops to circle behind Howe’s troops and cut off their retreat.
One of the oldest state parks in New Jersey, Washington Rock was originally purchased in 1913 to commemorate the historical events of 1777.
While Washington Rock is a state park, it is maintained by the Somerset County Park Commission through an agreement with the NJ Division of Parks and Forestry. The decision to temporarily close has been made in concert with state park officials.
The Park Commission’s five golf courses opened on Saturday, May 2 and will continue to operate with certain restrictions.
General use parks including Duke Island Park on Old York Road and North Branch Park on Milltown Road, both in Bridgewater; Colonial Park in Franklin; Natirar Park in Far Hills and Peapack-Gladstone; East County Park in Warren; and Skillman Park in Montgomery are open.
In addition, the trail systems in Washington Valley Park in Bridgewater, the Sourland Mountain Preserve in Hillsborough and Montgomery, the Environmental Education Center at Lord Stirling Park in Basking Ridge, and the Little Brook Sanctuary in Bernardsville are open. However, restroom facilities, picnic areas, pavilions, playgrounds, exercise stations, and all buildings including, but not limited to, visitor centers and educational/interpretive centers will remain closed to the public as per the Governor’s Executive Orders.
Updates on cancellations and openings may be found at www.somersetcountyparks.org or by calling 908-722-1200.