Joe Palaia Park in Ocean Township will reopen Fri., April 24, after being closed to the public for about two weeks. Township officials closed the park after Gov. Murphy issued an Executive Order closing all state and county parks.
“But we are a municipal park and will reopen it as long as people follow the social-distancing rules. We realize the park is a focal point of the township but people were socializing on the trails and there were a lot of mass gatherings,” Mayor Christopher Siciliano said.
“We want people to use it safely and will consider closing it down again if they do not use social-distancing in the park. The trails have mile markers and we suggest waiting until other users are a tenth of a mile in front before starting your stroll. We will do this on a trial basis and, if we find it is not working out, we will have to go to Plan B. I hope it works out,” he said.
Under the reopening plan, the park will be sectioned off into a northern loop of trails and a southern loop of trails. The connector road between the two loops, that goes from the fairground down to where the maintenance sheds are located, will be closed off.
“You can only use one trail or the other. We’re going to enforce one-way only so you’re not encountering people coming on the other side of the trail except for the main entrance by the fairgrounds, which is wide enough that we can put cones right down the middle,” Siciliano said.
Activities at 208-acre park, with almost three miles of trails, will be monitored and supervised by township employees, including occasional police patrols.
Siciliano said there will be signs posted recommending people wear masks whenever they can and parking will be limited to cut down on people using the park.
There will also be a set schedule for using the park. Joggers can use the park from 7 to 9 a.m. and from 6 p.m. until dusk. Seniors and people with strollers can use the park from 9 to 11 a.m. and from 1 to 3 p.m. Family walks will be from 3 to 6 p.m. Individual walkers will use the northern loop from 11 a.m.to 1 p.m.
Bicyclists will use the southern loop during the same hours. Joggers and cyclists can use all three miles of trails in the park, which will close at dusk. People walking their dogs can use the park anytime except when joggers are using it.
The schedule for use of Palaia Park will be posted on the Ocean Township website. Other township playgrounds and fields and county parks, like Weltz Park, will remain closed.
“We may adjust things as we go but this is an opportunity to give everybody some exercise and get some fresh air,” Siciliano said.