SOMERVILLE, NJ - Two days in to the July 4th Holiday weekend, all is quiet along the Raritan River, according to Somerville Police who report they've turned away several car loads of out-of-town motorists looking to park and carry their coolers, chairs and grills to picnic along the mud flats known as Somerville Beach adjacent to the Route 206 bridge connecting Somerville and Hillsborough.
Police cars, barriers and Temporary No Parking signs off South Bridge Street are in place to discourage any further congregations which have been building the past four weekends.
The area has been declared off-limits, with No Trespassing and No Swimming signs posted at the access parking lot and pathways that lead to the river because of public outrage over the abuse of the riverfront area last weekend by a crowd of 250-300 people that left behind trash, bottles, cans, diapers and makeshift latrines. Many of their cars were parked illegally in parking lots on adjacent private property.
A group of volunteers spent two hours last Monday scouring the riverfront and pathways, filling dozens of 30-gallon trash bags that more than half-filled a 20-yard dumpster.
Signs leading to the area include a list of prohibited activities, including No Swimming, No Smoking, No Littering, No open fires and No alcohol consumption.
Somerville Police were at the site all day Saturday, blocking the parking lots and advising people they could not walk down to the river. Though disappointed, police said those who were turned away did not cause any problems. Police handed out a flyer with a list of state parks as alternatives.
Several local residents stopped off to thank the police, and dropped off water and iced tea.
The Somerset County Park Commission does maintain the Raritan River Greenway easement, which parallels the river and remains open, according to Somerville Borough Clerk Kevin Sluka. The Greenway is popular with joggers, bicyclists, bird watchers and those who want to take a walk with their families or on their lunch hour.
Police will continue to enforce the restrictions put in to place, including temporary No Parking on nearby Fifth Street through Sunday.