TRENTON, NJ – The fight to keep New Jersey’s State Parks open during the COVID-19 epidemic has gone straight down the party line. New Jersey Assembly Democrats defeated Republicans 52-27, signaling the weakness of the New Jersey Republican Party to challenge even the simplest of actions by Governor Murphy and the state Democrat Party.
The issue of keeping New Jersey’s large state parks open was to promote healthy activity for residents who could be stuck inside their homes for another month or two. That prospect alone could lead to even more unforseen health consequences for New Jerseyans.
“We recognize the incredibly difficult challenges you face every day as our beloved State battles the COVID-19 crisis. We have and remain supportive of you and your administration as we go through this trying time together,” said Assembly Republican Jay Webber. “Your decision to close our state and county parks, however, is wrong for public health and our state’s residents.”
In Ocean County, despite broadly supporting Ocean County Freeholder Virginia Haines, 76, and her decision to close county parks, Assemblymen Gregory McGuckin and John Catalano both voted for the measure on the state level, signaling a complete flip flop as the two sat by idly when Haines closed many large parks in their own legislative district, but that’s how it goes in politics in Ocean County.
A group that represents New Jersey’s hunters questions the governor’s decision to block hunting from large parks and reserves across the state. Hunting is typically an individual activity that requires a vast level of social distancing.
The New Jersey Outdoor Alliance on Tuesday released a statement calling on the legislature to show “political courage” in the ongoing fight to reopen the state parks and forests after the Governor’s order last week closing public spaces.
“Monday’s party-line vote by the Assembly was a joke, a bad one, that fails to understand the needs of the people in this state and instead.” said NJOA spokesman Cody McLaughlin, “It’s easy to kowtow to a Governor in a crisis, much harder to show the courage to buck him when he is wrong. Instead, our elected representatives have chosen to buck the people and the facts of this situation, and it is sad. Our system of Government was founded on the principle of checks and balances, and now is the time to both check and balance a Governor who is dead wrong on the park closure issue. As we said before and will continue to say – we have guidelines for social distancing, and we, in good faith, committed to those guidelines. Shame on him.”
The group, which represents the state’s 794,000 hunters, anglers and fishermen, called on the legislature to support AR-151 and urge the Governor to work cooperatively with law-abiding citizens and immediately reopen state and county parks and forests with the same set of commonsense social distancing and occupancy guidelines that have worked for New Jersey thus far so that sportsmen and other outdoor recreation enthusiasts can continue to practice healthful activities that are a boon to mental and physical health in a time when morale is critically important to our state.