For everyone hunkered down in their homes during the COVID-19 pandemic, there is some good news for those wanting a breath of fresh air and a different environment. New Jersey state parks and forest trails are still open for passive recreation. Just make sure to keep a healthy distance from each other.

State parks remain open despite some Jersey Shore municipalities closing their beaches and boardwalks to avoid large crowds. Some local governments also may be restricting their own parks. Ocean County, for example, closed its park system this week.

And while many parks may be open for walking, jogging or cycling, officials have been cordoning off playground and workout equipment. Restrooms are also closed.

At state parks, entrance fees are also being waived to encourage people to visit. Camping reservations and other events, however, have been canceled through April 30. People can receive refunds but new camping reservations will not be accepted.

State Environmental Commissioner Catherine McCabe said Monday that it would be a good idea to go to a park close to one's home. Once at the park, notice if it's too crowded. If it seems that avoiding a crowd is almost impossible, please visit a different park.

"If you go into a park, please make space for others at all times. If you go with a group, make sure it's a very small immediate family group. Do not join other groups or make large groups in the park," McCabe said.

If walking on the trails, make space for others by stepping aside and allowing someone to pass and warning other visitors of your presence while passing by. This will help keep the proper social distancing order in place.

McCabe said fishing is still allowed at the parks, especially with spring trout season underway. But again, anglers need to take social distancing protocols into consideration when they pick a spot and when they are fishing. If it gets too crowded, find another spot  or go to a different park.

New Jersey State Park Police and Conservation Police are watching everyone's behavior to make crowds are not developing in the parks. If they do see large crowds, they will kindly ask them to disperse and remind them of the current circumstances.

McCabe said people are cooperating so far. She said the last thing that the state wants to do is close the parks because they know how important it is for people to get outside and exercise.

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