TOMS RIVER, NJ – Last month, Ocean County Freeholder Virginia Haines, 83, unilaterally made the decision to close Ocean County’s huge public park system because Orthodox Jews were reported visiting the county’s Mantoloking Bay Bridge Park. That decision ended up closing virtually vacant parks across the county. Now, one month later, a quick drive through towns like Toms River where open space for children is limited, many have begun hanging out and riding their bikes in parking lots.
Governor Murphy has shut down all state parks. Haines has shut down all county parks and Mayor Hill has shut down parks in Toms River, but all of them recommend people continue to get their daily exercise and fresh air. While Mayor Mo Hill might live on a posh tree-lined street with sidewalks in North Dover among friends with plenty of space to play in cul-de-sacs, that’s not the life everyone in town enjoys. Many people live in townhomes, apartments, on major roads and on roads that are not conducive to children being on them. In fact, these days, cul-de-sacs are the best game in town and residents who live on them are starting to grow tired of kids from other neighborhoods being dropped off on their street to play, ride bikes and go for jogs.
Another bi-product of the park and trail closures is more people are jogging and cycling in the street, instead of on trails, tracks and park paths. Veterans Park on North Bay Avenue is a very popular spot for daily walks, as is Winding River Park, both are closed.
We asked our readers what they thought about this growing problem and here’s what they had to say.
“Would make so much more sense to open parks. Safety for one thing…crowded streets will soon be an issue. People NEED to be out. And let’s not ignore health benefits of outside….sunlight fresh air and exercise lead to increased immunity. Look up any study about vitamin D and respiratory immunity,” said Kristyn Rommel.
“I got yelled at by Tom’s river cops for being on little beach by my house everyone was way far apart. So sad you cant even enjoy your own little neighborhood,” said Jennifer Gauthier.
“Saw this on the streets in Monmouth County today.. people walking and would not move out of the way of car traffic.. that is nice that you are going for a walk.. I didnt make the choice of being an essential worker and trying to get home to shower. Move out of the road,” said Amy Costello.
“I got a parking ticket in Island Heights because it’s against the law for a Toms River resident to visit another town for recreation. I was walking,” said Jennifer Ann.
“I was thinking the same thing while doing laps around the mall. Would be so much better to run around the lake in the park. Saw some kids on bikes there too,” said John Sommo who now has to run around the vacant parking lot at the mall.
Michael Arcuri said, “When the weather is nice people are crammed on the streets and sidewalks of Seaside and Point Pleasant. Why not open the boardwalks so they’d be spread out? Or does that make too much sense?”
“I have people driving to my street and unloading their kids to ride bikes and crap. Wtf is wrong with your own damn street,” said Joe Junior.