NJ Parks Watch: Into the Great Wide Open

Will there be drones spying on people? How about helicopters?

Those questions popped up today as New Jersey prepares for an unprecedented  spring weekend in the park.

State and most county parks, along with golf courses, will reopen at sunrise Saturday, but this isn’t exactly business as usual.

Phil Murphy sought to make that clear – once again – at his daily briefing when he reiterated the rules.

Let’s start with the parks.

Picnic areas, pavillions, playgrounds and rest rooms will remain closed. This effectively limits park activities to walking, biking and jogging. Masks by the way are not required, but Murphy recommends that people wear them.

As for golf courses, there are a whole list of rules, including one that limits the usual “foursome” to only two people unless all are members of the same immediate family. Social distancing, you know.

Moreover, the governor said there must be at least 16 minutes between groups teeing off.

A few days ago, Murphy said state officials will closely watch what goes on in the parks, prompting the inquiry about drones and helicopters. The question was not really answered, although Murphy
said enforcement of the rules will involve all levels of police -local, county and state.

More than once, the governor has said reopening the parks is a “crucial” test and has expresssed optimism and confidence the public will respond in the right way. If not, he said they’ll be closed
again.

Warnings aside, you get the feeling the last thing in the world Murphy wants to do is close parks after they’ve been reopened. So, you have to figure that barring something totally egregious, they are going to
stay open.

Moving on from parks, the governor also was asked today about state finances. The picture here is pretty dismal.

Murphy said the current budget gap is at least $20 billion.

That means there is a minimum $20 billion gap in the amount of revenue the state  is taking in and the amount it needs to spend between now and the end of the next fiscal year in June, 2021. There are problems on both ends. Tax revenue is down and expenses needed to cope with the pandemic are up.

Federal help is one way out of the hole; Murphy was at the White House on Thursday seeking assistance.

So, is there a plan?

With some dark humor, the governor referenced the philosophy of Mike Tyson, a one-time New Jersey resident, about plans.

“Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the face,” Murphy said.

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