Freehold Township has closed pavilions and picnic table areas in municipal parks in response to overcrowding concerns amid the coronavirus pandemic.
A post on the township’s Facebook page on Wednesday says Freehold has “received many complaints that the number of people in the parks are not allowing for proper social distancing and that park-goers are not able to freely move through our facilities.”
“To aid in encouraging proper social distancing and spacing, we have temporarily closed the pavilions and picnic table areas in the parks, as these areas have been trouble spots for gatherings that have not respected safety guidelines.
“This action is to aid in the spreading of people throughout the facility and to avoid park-goers from gathering in large groups,” the post reads.
There are 14 municipal parks in Freehold Township. The city borders Howell, where officials on Tuesday ordered municipal parks closed and cited rising coronavirus cases and inadequate compliance with safety measures, such as social distancing and wearing face coverings.
Less than 24 hours after all parks in Howell were ordered shut due to COVID-19 concerns, an update from the office of the township manager issued the reopening of youth sports fields on Wednesday. “[The leagues] have observed proper protocols and have taken responsibility for their own safety and the safety of others. As a result, we will be allowing them to utilize our parks again. We expect them to return to the fields today,” the notice reads.
The day before, the Howell township released a surprise announcement shutting all parks immediately “as a result of increased complaints” related to the “failure” of park visitors to adhere to social distancing and mask-wearing protocols.
Both municipalities are in Monmouth County, which had 91 of the 651 coronavirus cases in New Jersey reported on Tuesday, the second-highest of the state’s 21 counties.
Neither Freehold Township nor Howell has offered a timetable for lifting the park restrictions.
“We urge everyone to enjoy our parks safely, and to take advantage of the many locations Freehold Township has to offer. We are aware of the challenges presented this week, and will work to keep our parks as safe and enjoyable as possible,” read the Freehold Township Facebook post.