Trenton, NJ – The New Jersey Keep It Green Coalition (KIG), which is made up of over 150 organizations dedicated to the preservation and stewardship of our state’s open space, farmland, and historic resources, today affirmed their support for Governor Murphy’s Executive Order 118, which closed state and county parks. According to KIG, Executive Order 118 was an unfortunate, but necessary, temporary step taken to protect the health of the public as well as our park staff. Members of the Coalition find no joy in seeing so many of the open spaces they have long advocated to protect and steward being closed, but COVID-19 has presented our state, country, and world with an unprecedented health emergency. KIG expressed an understanding that we must take the recommendations of public health experts seriously and that these decisions are not being made lightly. The organizations encourage the state to re-open our state and county parks and forests as soon as safe and practical for the public and park employees, based upon guidance from public health and park experts, and appreciate NJDEP Commissioner McCabe’s recent commitment to do so. Responsibly spending time outside in nature while adhering to social distancing and other public health guidelines provides many benefits to physical and mental health, and will be essential to help our residents heal from this crisis.
“While outdoor recreation is important for our physical and mental health, right now it’s more important to play it safe by limiting large crowds and staying physically distant. With the spring weather upon us, it had become clear that limiting human contact in parks would be an impossible challenge,” said Drew Tompkins, Coordinator of KIG and Director of Policy for New Jersey Audubon. “New Jersey Audubon understands Governor Phil Murphy’s decision to close all state and county parks as a necessary act to limit surges of COVID-19 cases. By closing the parks, the Governor is limiting ways that the virus can be transferred, either by exposure to someone infected or touching a shared surface in the park. We’re confident that once the conditions are deemed safe, our parks will open again for residents and visitors to enjoy.”
“All of us are feeling the disruptive impacts of this virus and our hearts go out to all those suffering from serious complications and have lost loved ones,” expressed Ed Potosnak, Chair of KIG and Executive Director of New jersey LCV. “While the closure of public parks is unfortunate because they are seemingly needed now more than ever for recreation and physical and mental health, it is a necessity to keep the public and park staff safe,” Potosnak explained. “KIG supports the temporary closure because we know the Governor arrived at this decision after careful consultation with public health experts using the best science available and remain hopeful these special places open again soon,” Potosnak concluded.
“The New Jersey Highlands Coalition welcomes the important leadership of the Keep It Green Coalition in support of the Governor’s actions, and recognizes how difficult it is to ask people to stay away from our parks and open spaces at this time,” said Julia Somers, Executive Director of the New Jersey Highlands Coalition. “Sadly, there really was no alternative, and we look forward to returning to recreating on our public lands as soon as it is safe to do so.”
“New Jersey’s open spaces are treasures as are the people of New Jersey,” said Jaclyn Rhodes, Assistant Executive Director of Pinelands Preservation Alliance. “Pinelands Preservation Alliance (PPA) supports the closure of these places to protect the residents of the state, but we also encourage New Jerseyans to respect the rules especially for those that live adjacent to these wonderful lands and for those that use off-road vehicles. Hopefully, the burden on NJDEP and park police will be reduced by limiting access and by following the rules, and PPA thanks those that put their lives on the line every day.”
“New Jersey’s parks, forests, trails and open spaces are essential to our health and quality of life,” said Michele Byers, Executive Director NJ Conservation Foundation. “We appreciate the Governor’s leadership during this unprecedented crisis and look forward to working with the Administration to develop a plan for safely re-opening public lands as soon as possible, so that the public can resume appropriately enjoying healthy outdoor recreation and the healing beauty of nature at this difficult time.”
“Keeping our open space trails open is critical right now to people who live in communities where we preserve land. In respect for safety and the Governor’s directive, we’ve partnered with local officials. We’ve closed some trails on private easements, but the majority of our trails are open with local support and where we can monitor to ensure social distancing. We have encouraged citizen scientists to bird during spring migration on our preserves. Public comments show the value of our open spaces and trails is more appreciated than ever,” said Linda Mead, President and CEO of D&R Greenway Land Trust.
“While it is very unfortunate that many parks that we all enjoy across the state had to be temporarily closed, the silver lining here is that many local parks and preserves remain open, and we encourage the community to use them responsibly to prevent further closures so visitors can continue to benefit from time spent in the outdoors,” said Patricia Ruby, executive director of Hunterdon Land Trust.
“While no one wants to see parks closed, we understand this is a matter of saving lives and ANJEC therefore supports Governor Murphy in closing parks to maximize social distancing,” stated Jennifer Coffey, Executive Director of ANJEC. “We look forward to a time when we can all enjoy our beloved open space again safely.”
About New Jersey Keep It Green: New Jersey Keep It Green is a coalition of more than 150 park and conservation organizations working to create a long-term, dedicated source of funding for the preservation and stewardship of New Jersey’s natural areas, waterways, parks, farmland and historic sites. NJ Keep It Green led successful campaigns to pass statewide ballot measures in 2006, 2007, and 2009 generating $600 million for state open space, farmland and historic preservation programs. In 2014, NJ Keep It Green led a successful campaign that supports sustained, long-term funding for preservation and stewardship. For more information or to sign the NJ Keep It Green Statement of Support, visit www.njkeepitgreen.org.
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