WAYNE, NJ – A thick, dark curtain seems to hide our old way of life. It has cast a gloom over us for the past five weeks. Today, the curtain was lifted a little, and sunlight streamed in like a spring day.  On one of the most beautiful days of the year, after what seems like weeks of rain, Wayne Township parks were re-opened and residents, who had taken parks for granted in the past, were given the opportunity and an excuse to get outside and see the beauty of Wayne.  

In High Mountain Preserve, amidst the acres of quiet wooded slopes, there were people on the sunlit trails.  Most trees on High Mountain were not near full bloom yet and sunlight flooded the forest. Flashes of flowering blooms stood out like fireworks in a night sky.

The walk within the preserved woodland was peaceful, and for long stretches the sun and the constant song of the birds were the only company. Every couple of minutes, the movement of other humans stood out among the stoic trees.  As they approached, masks were raised, a respectful distance was kept while pleasant greetings were shared.

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Diane and John didn’t want to share their last names with the stranger in the woods who asked them for an interview. They traveled to High Mountain from Leonia having found it on Google. “We searched best places to hike,” said Diane. That certainly describes High Mountain Preserve.  It’s not a difficult trek and there are miles of well-worn trails that thread through the woods, up and down gentle hilly slopes. “I was getting sick of walking around my neighborhood, so it’s nice to see something new,” said Diane.

Jack and Heather Bonner were hiking with their son Zander and daughter Victoria who is home early from college and taking her finals online. “It’s a nice little break, for sure,” Victoria said with a smile. 

Zander admitted that he was going crazy stuck inside and agreed with his sister. “It’s awesome,” he said.

“This day is beautiful and hopeful,” said Mom Heather.

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Everything seems brighter in Laurelwood Arboretum.  The greens are dark and lush, the flowering trees show brighter yellows, whites and pinks.   

“It is just so beautiful here anytime of the year but especially now so in the spring,” said Susan Kampschmidt who was walking her dog Coby along the sunny trails of Laurelwood.  Birds chirped in a background melody of soft beauty as she spoke. “With everything blooming, I just couldn’t wait to get back here. It’s just so gorgeous and they take such good care of it. And the day couldn’t be any more perfect. Blue skies. Seventy degrees. Its glorious.”

Michelle Heinsohn was visiting Laurelwood with her husband Brian and their children Max, Jayden and Cassie. “The parks opening is everything,” she said. “It just makes this whole coronavirus thing bearable.”

At Dave Waks Memorial Park, a few families threw a ball or a frisbee around as they spent time outside, laughing and running around.  Of all the parks TAPinto visited on Saturday, Waks Park was most quiet. It makes sense because this is a park for softball games, lacrosse and football, all of which are organized sports that are still outlawed in the name of social distancing.

The Alps Road Athletic Fields were different and where the more serious soccer players went to get their ‘touches.’

13-year-old Morgan Aidan plays for Academy Soccer and for the Boys & Girls Club Panther soccer team, so today was a chance for her to get back out in the field and practice.

Her father, Chris Adrian coaches Morgan and her sister Payton on Panther soccer teams. He was very excited that the parks opened up again. “It’s nice to get them outside and running around again,” he said. “We kick around in the backyard and in the basement, but this is what we need.”  The Dad swept his arm around to point at his daughters as they took turns shooting at the goal.

Nebi Ademi graduated from Wayne Hills last year and hates being cooped up in his house.  “It’s not the best thing,” he said.  His cousins Diana and Elisa were with him at the Alps Road Fields, soccer players all.

“For me, it’s really important,” said Ademi of getting to be out on the fields today. “I have my season coming up, so I need to get my touches. Plus, it’s good to get out with my cousins, run around a little bit and take in the fresh air and good weather.” Ademi will be playing for Ramapo in the fall… if all goes well.

If you were to have headed down Nellis Drive from Alps Road today, you would have seen full tennis courts on both sides of the street. With your windows down, the warm air rushing past you, you could hear the sounds of tennis balls knocked back and forth off rackets interspersed peals of laughter as well as exclamations of both triumph and frustration.

A day like Saturday was the perfect day for duffers to play a round of golf at Preakness Valley Golf Course.  No matter how good a golfer, everyone was a bit of a duffer today, since there has been no chance to practice and prepare over the last few five weeks.  Richard Whitegy was happy to be out on the links again with his friend Mike Davis.  “This morning I felt like it was Christmas,” he said. “I couldn’t wait to get out here!”

We took for granted what we had our entire lives: access to some amazingly beautiful parks and open recreation.  It was taken away from us for a time and some of us can now appreciate what a gift it is to be able to get away from rectangular walls and rectangular screens and see what makes Wayne Township so beautiful.

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