New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy said he's reopening the state's parks, golf courses and county parks on Saturday, but visitors will still need to follow social distancing rules.
"For passive recreation, including running and hiking, biking, fishing, boating, kayaking and horseback riding, come Saturday morning our state parks will be open once again," Murphy said at a news briefing Wednesday, adding that he's signing an executive order reopening recreational areas. "County governments will regain the authority to decide whether county parks will be open or closed," he added.
The new executive order comes with several health measures that visitors must follow. All parks — state, county or municipal — will have parking capped at 50% of capacity, and public spaces such as playgrounds, pavilions, visitor centers and restrooms will remain closed, said Murphy. Picnics, organized activities and team sports will continue to be prohibited.
"Now to be clear, we cannot have everyone rush out to a park or a golf course. Social distancing will be strongly enforced, and we expect golf course personnel to enforce this requirement," he said.
Murphy also strongly recommends the use of face coverings and said he will be "looking very closely this weekend in how people adhere to these social distancing guidelines as well as whether or not [they] are covering their faces."
He said protests to ease social distancing restrictions were not considered in the decision to reopen the state's parks, with the exception of residents who reached out with mental health concerns.
"With all due respect to all the pressure that's been out there, we couldn't frankly care. We made this call based on data, science, fact and, again, the exception is also on mental health," Murphy said.
Six counties in California's Bay Area and the city of Berkeley also announced later on Wednesday that they would relax some restrictions on outdoor activities, including fishing and golfing, while extending shelter-in-place orders through May.
The New Jersey governor additionally signed an executive order that will allow petitions seeking to place municipal or county initiatives or referendums on the ballot to be signed electronically.
"No one should be going door-to-door, either campaigning or collecting signatures, and we should ensure that initiative and referendum campaigns can proceed but in a way that is consistent with public health," Murphy said.
New Jersey reported 2,481 new coronavirus cases on Wednesday, bringing the total to 116,264 cases. The state also reported 329 new deaths for a total of 6,770.