TRENTON, N.J. – Efforts by Assemblyman Jay Webber to reopen state parks and forests is gaining support across party lines and geographic areas.
An online petition that Webber posted on April 7 to rescind Gov. Phil Murphy’s executive order to close all state parks had gathered more than 10,000 signatures as of Tuesday.
During an Assembly telephonic session Monday, Webber suggested at that state parks could reopen with reasonable limits that include abiding by social distancing protocols, keeping facilities like bathrooms and picnic shelters closed, banning non-New Jerseyans until the crisis is over or asking people to wear masks.
He noted that some Hudson County and Jersey City officials were also hoping to get Murphy to reverse his decision while neighboring states continue to keep their parks open.
“We are find ourselves as a real outlier in the county,” continued Webber. “The parks and forests remain open in all of our neighboring states.”
He noted that N.Y. Gov. Andrew Cuomo waived all fees for state, local and county parks in March. Pennsylvania, Delaware and Connecticut’s parks also remain open.
“We’re not asking for the parks and the forests in the state to be open without restrictions. What we’re asking for is to help craft a common-sense policy on our parks and forests,” said Webber (R-Morris). “We have 9 million residents in the most densely populated state in the Union and it simply can’t be that the safest number of residents who can use those parks, over a half million acres, is zero. There has to be a number between zero and 9 million that makes sense for the people of New Jersey.”
At the Assembly session, Webber moved to force a vote on his resolution (AR151), which he sponsors with 14 members of the Assembly, asking the governor to reopen all state parks and forests and county parks, but it was tabled by Democrats with a 52-27 vote.