Republicans want Murphy to change his mind, keep parks open during coronavirus

Posted Apr 07, 2020

Some prominent New Jersey Republicans are urging Gov. Phil Murphy to rescind his executive order closing state parks amid the coronavirus outbreak.

Former Assemblyman Jack Ciattarelli, who is seeking the Republican nomination against Murphy in 2021, posted a video on Tuesday night calling on Murphy to change his mind.

“For many people, our state and county parks are critically important outlets, especially in our urban and high density areas,” Ciattarelli says on the video.

“Is there no way for people to enjoy passive recreation while steadfastly observing safe social distancing,” he adds.

Murphy closed all state parks and forests, and county parks, via a single executive order Tuesday, citing reports of visitors gathering too closely and disregarding social distancing guidelines aimed at reducing the spread of the coronavirus in New Jersey.

Douglas Steinhardt, chair of the New Jersey Republican State Committee, also appealed for reconsideration via a tweet and said the State Legislature should get involved, if necessary.

In it, Webber writes that neither New York nor Pennsylvania have closed state parks.

“Access to fresh air and exercise for our citizenry, especially during this stressful time, is paramount. For that reason, safely and responsibly using our state’s open spaces should continue to be encouraged, not prohibited," writes Webber, R-26th District.

Murphy’s order, which took effect at 8 p.m. Tuesday, does not apply to municipal parks.

The New Jersey Sierra Club’s director, Jeff Tittel, said Tuesday he supports Murphy’s order, noting that the organization cancelled outings two weeks ago.

"We felt that it was important to practice social distancing given the severity of the outbreak. Closing the state parks and forests in New Jersey is a critical step to keep everyone safe and healthy,” Tittel said

Webber, in his petition letter, charges that Murphy is not giving enough credit to park users.

“Respectfully, governor, you should trust us more. We are fully capable of making intelligent, common-sense, and responsible choices that permit us to both to meet our obligations to the fight against COVID-19 and use our State park resources for our physical, mental, and emotional well-being,” Webber writes.

Murphy’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

New Jersey had 44,416 confirmed coronavirus cases and 1,232 known deaths as of Tuesday, with the state’s projected peak still weeks away.

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