RED BANK: BOROUGH SHUTS DOWN PARKS

red bank riverside gardens park 040420.jpgRiverside Gardens Park as seen last Saturday afternoon. (Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge.)

By JOHN T. WARD

Red Bank officials plan to indefinitely close borough parks starting Wednesday.

red bank eastside park 040720The tennis courts at Eastside Park were in full use Tuesday afternoon, but are to be shut down along with all other Red Bank parks. (Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge.)

The action, announced in an update on the COVID-19 pandemic posted on the borough website late Tuesday afternoon, followed an executive order signed earlier in the day by Governor Phil Murphy declaring all state and county parks and forests closed, but leaving it to municipalities to decide whether to close theirs.

The borough notice said there “have been recent instances of non-compliance with social distancing directives at local parks despite verbal warnings and orders to disperse.”

But the only mention of the action during the borough council’s first-ever online-only meeting Tuesday evening came from Councilman Ed Zipprich, who said during his committee report that the public utilities department was “getting ready to close our parks down tomorrow.”

Otherwise, the closure went unmentioned by council members and Mayor Pasquale Menna, who presided over the session from home, where he is recovering from COVID-19-like symptoms.

Two borough residents pushed back, however, during the public comment session.

“If I heard correctly, you’re planning to close the parks in the borough?” said Boris Kofman. “I’ve been walking in the parks at least once or twice daily. I have not observed any overcrowding.

“You’re going to force the pedestrians onto the sidewalks, which are much harder to socially distance on, so it would have the adverse effect, I’m afraid,” he said.

Branch Avenue resident Stephen Hecht said he and his wife, Barbara Boas, have been walking up to five miles a day and have been “amazed and gratified about how careful people are being” with social distancing.

We have observed the same kind of carefulness and concern in each of the municipal parks,” he said. He urged the council to keep the parks open “because people in Red Bank have been responsible.”

No council members weighed in on the issue.

Afterward, Business Administrator Ziad Shehady told redbankgreen by email that the decision to close the parks was made jointly by himself and OEM Coordinator Tommy Welsh, Police Chief Darren McConnell and Recreation Director Charlie Hoffmann.