Gov. Phil Murphy has come under criticism for closing all county and state parks because of the COVID-19 crisis.

Some argued the action was unwarranted, while others, especially in more rural parts of New Jersey, said the closures were unfairly punishing local residents who had followed the social-distancing rule.

A petition started by Assemblyman Jay Webber, R-Morris, has gotten more than 7,300 signatures as of Thursday asking for the parks to be reopened.

On Thursday, Murphy explained why he took the action.

“The evidence from State Park police and other observations up and down the state was unequivocally an enormous amount of gathering in close proximity of individuals at both state parks and county parks," he said.

He also said police observed a high number of out-of-state license plates at parks. He did not say which state the vehicles were from or which part of the state those parks were in.

“We didn’t take this lightly. We did it based on the facts as we saw them," he said.

Murphy also said he can’t keep parks in rural areas open, even if they weren’t crowded a few days ago because “the entirety of the rest of the state of New Jersey will be on your doorstep in your park, and or, beyond New Jersey, folks from out of state and the region who will want to be in that park.”

“I say this not to be a jerk, not to be argumentative — we did this based on the facts, and we will continue to keep this posture until we are through this.”

When Murphy was asked if walkers and runners should be masked, he said everyone must be able to see traffic around them.

“Wearing a mask that impairs your ability to see, assuming you’re social distancing, is something I personally think is putting you at risk that you don’t need to be at," he said.

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