TRENTON – Almost lost among the wave of new coronavirus COVID-19 safeguards announced by the state Monday was a press release reminding that open spaces at State Parks and Wildlife Management Areas are awaiting residents who are looking to enjoy the Great Outdoors.
Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Catherine R. McCabe announced Monday that residents may still access the state parks, forests, recreation areas and Wildlife Management Areas, including roads, parking areas, trails, lakes and other open space areas.
This includes the Delaware and Raritan Canal State Park. The canal and towpath are part of the National Recreational Trail System. The 70-mile linear park is a valuable wildlife corridor connecting fields and forests. The main canal passes the Port Mercer canal house, through the village of Griggstown to Blackwells Mills, ending up in New Brunswick.
However, campgrounds, visitor centers, nature centers, restrooms and similar facilities at state parks, forests, recreation areas, Wildlife Management Areas and historic sites are closed until further notice in order to protect public health and safety as the state works to address COVID-19.
Given the lack of services for the public, entry fees normally collected by state parks will be waived. Additionally, permits typically required including but not limited to mobile sport fishing permits (ie. beach buggy permits) are still necessary.
This approach will allow important access to outdoor activities such as walking to continue while limiting potential exposure and spread of the virus.
“Keeping state-owned open spaces available to the public is important so people can continue to enjoy the healthful benefits of recreation and being outdoors,” McCabe said. “We advise the public to practice social distancing while enjoying our open spaces.”
Staff and Law Enforcement personnel will continue to conduct routine patrols of open spaces to ensure public safety and general wellbeing of the visiting public.
In addition, the DEP is postponing all upcoming events, programming and camping reservations in State Parks and Wildlife Management areas through April 30. Refunds will be issued, and events rescheduled at the appropriate time.
For updates, please visit www.njparksandforests.org.