Assemblywoman Jean Stanfield: Open The Parks

Jean Stanfield


The calls have been loud and they’ve been often in the week since Governor Phil Murphy made
the decision to close parks. The people have spoken, and they all say, “Open them back up!”
The last month has been a nightmare. We’ve witnessed unprecedented losses, our world has
turned on its head, and we’ve had to adopt a completely new way of living in order to protect our
neighbors, our parents, our brothers and sisters. The president, along with governors and other
representatives have had to navigate this landscape, which often feels like trying to escape from
a monster in a bad dream. No matter how fast you try and run, you don’t seem to get far.

I’m not here to criticize our governor or our president for decisions on shutdowns, lockdowns
and all the other temporary law changes that were made from a scientific and public health
standpoint. This has never happened in our lifetimes, and anyone who says they have the
perfect antidote is lying.

I am not envious of the decisions Governor Murphy has had to make. There’s thousands of lives
at stake, but there’s also the consideration of the economy and how much people will suffer as it
grinds to a halt. There’s also a conversation on personal freedom to be had. Then there is
mental health, which brings me back to the closing of parks.

Does closing parks make the community as a whole safer? If we think critically about it, does it
slow the spread of the coronavirus? Or would leaving them open and trusting people to follow
social distancing guidelines achieve the same purpose while providing everyone with a much
needed respite from their homes?

I side with the last option. We’ve heard from numerous health professionals that outdoors,
among the sun’s natural Vitamin D, and in wide-open spaces does not carry the same risk level
that has warranted many of our other shutdowns. Now that doesn’t mean that people should be
picnicing together on a grass field in a park, and we have to trust they won’t.

Everyday when I go for a walk, I see countless people outside walking their dogs or going for
bike rides or runs. I’ve yet to encounter a moment where someone didn’t move off the sidewalk
when another person was approaching or cross to the other side of the street. This was the
case in our county and state parks. You walk a trail, see someone in the distance heading your
way, and one of you moves safely to the side.

People know the guidelines and safety measures. Now let’s believe they’ll follow them, and if
they don’t, then close down the park where there’s bad actors. Don’t make the entire state suffer
for the failings of residents in specific parks.

The alternative is much more frightening. There’s a common saying that stress is a silent killer.
Ditto for other mental health issues. Stress and anxiety puts people at a heightened risk to
develop all the underlying conditions that make coronavirus much more fatal. Just because we
can’t quantify stress and mental health with coronavirus-like testing sites, doesn’t mean we
should ignore all the years of data on how important they are to overall health.

We are now seeing that the pandemic response is one gigantic cost/benefit analysis. Does the
cost of a specific shutdown lead to an unquestionable benefit in safety and health. It’s tough to
know for sure if we’ve gone too far or not gone far enough. Lives are on the line, regardless.

When it comes to walling people off at home and banning them from parks, it is my belief that
the cost far outweighs the statistically-low benefits.

Let’s encourage physical fitness. Let’s allow people a mental holiday from their homes and give
them the chance to enjoy our beautiful open spaces. Let’s open the parks.

Assemblywoman Stanfield represents LD8.

(Visited 13 times, 1 visits today)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

News From Around the Web

The Political Landscape