Update: Mayor Brindle announced Wednesday night that town parks would reopen for passive recreation beginning Saturday. READ MORE HERE.
WESTFIELD, NJ — Town parks remain closed due to coronavirus and it remains to be determined when they will reopen, municipal officials said Tuesday night.
Mayor Shelley Brindle said that she has received “many questions” about the closure of local parks and while some people favor reopening them — as some other municipalities have — many do not favor immediately reopening of the recreational areas.
“I remain concerned that Westfield continues to experience a consistent amount of new cases, with only a small percentage coming from long term care facilities, indicating that community spread is still happening,” Brindle said at Tuesday’s council meeting. “We are also concerned that if we reopen our parks in advance of the county parks, it will push crowds to ours, particularly as the weather improves.”
When Gov. Phil Murphy ordered state and county parks closed starting April 7, Brindle also that day ordered Westfield’s parks be shut to help stem the spread of COVID-19. Police in Westfield, Brindle said Tuesday, are using drones with a recorded siren and message to enforce the park closures.
“Once the parks are opened, our police need to be confident that they will have the capacity to manage crowds and ensure social distancing,” Brindle said. Municipal officials are discussing reopening the parks incrementally, similar to the way in which the town closed them, she said.
The discussion of the park closures in Westfield came as the number of COVID-19 cases in Westfield rose to 216, according to Brindle, who citing county figures put the number of positive tests across Union County at 12,188 people. The COVID-19 death toll of people from Westfield stood at 31 Tuesday and Union County’s death toll stood at 627, according to local and state officials.
Grove Street resident Robert Pinheiro asked the council why Westfield isn’t reopening town parks.
“New providence and Summit are opening their parks,” Pinheiro said. “Even if it is just for exercise purposes, why can’t we focus on looking at what is best for Westfield instead of relying on what the governor wants to do?”
Brindle said the decision to keeps local parks shut has to do with what Westfield police believe is the department's ability to manage enforcement of social distancing within town parks.
“It certainly would be helpful for us if they would open up the county parks, so we could feel there would be more options for residents,” she added.
With the parks closed, Kimball Avenue resident Douglas MacNeil told the council he has found himself bicycling and sharing streets with an increasing amount of pedestrians.
“For social distancing, it means I got to swing out way in the lane,” he said.
MacNeil asked officials to communicate safety measures to residents, who he has often seen walking side-by-side on the streets where he is biking.
“Maybe walk single file ... I certainly don’t want to have an incident with a car,” MacNeil said.
Email Matt Kadosh at email@example.com | Twitter: @MattKadosh
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