OCEAN COUNTY, NJ – In March and April, Ocean County Freeholder Virginia Haines was among the first elected officials in New Jersey to close parks, weeks ahead of Governor Phil Murphy’s executive order calling for all state parks to be closed statewide. Initially, Haines closed the Mantoloking Bay Bridge Park in Brick because a large amount of Orthodox Jewish families were using the park after boardwalks and beaches were closed to the public.
An insider within county government claims Haines’ behind the scenes detailed Haine’s motivation to close the parks and her plan to slowly reopen parks so that she could be the focus of media stories as parks came back online.
“We decided to make the decision to close our county parks, last week we closed two county parks because it was becoming overcrowded in our parking lots,” she said at a public meeting. The park closures were done ahead of the Jewish holiday Passover and Christian Easter holiday.
“Ginny was getting complaints about the parks being overcrowded, mostly with Orthodox Jewish residents from Lakewood and other towns,” the source, who wishes to remain unidentified said. “It had nothing to do with the state park closures, but they were going to the county parks as others closed and complaints kept coming in from residents in those other towns.”
The source, a high-level county employee added, that in closed meetings with county leaders, Haines said her plan to reopen parks would be done in a way to spread them out to maximize her media attention during the reopening.
“She wanted to space out the openings far enough so she could get new stories each time,” the source said. “We all told her to just open them all at once, but she didn’t want to do that.”
Haines denied that account back in May, saying her decision was based on public health and safety.