By JOHN T. WARD
Red Bank parks reopened Saturday without any “significant issues,” police Chief Darren McConnell said Sunday night.
But redbankgreen‘s strolls through the facilities over the weekend prompted questions about whether behaviors said to slow the spread of COVID-19 could be realistically judged, let alone enforced.
Judgment call? Though this group in Riverside Gardens Park appeared from one angle not to be social-distancing, it wasn’t so clear from another angle. Below, walkers on the track at Count Basie Fields. (Photos by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge.)
Hanging in the air, though were pleas by government officials that the individuals maintain minimum six-foot distances from non-household members, wear facial coverings and take other precautions.
In his announcement last Wednesday that he was lifting his April 7 order to close the parks, Governor Phil Murphy threatened to re-close them if those limitations were not observed.
In the following days, he repeated the ultimatum a number of times, saying he would not care how much “incoming” anger he faced if his actions would “save one life” from the pandemic virus.
For its part, because it has “limited resources,” Red Bank would largely rely on the public to both comply and report concerns to the police, Mayor Pasquale Menna said Friday.
Going into the weekend, McConnell said police would boost foot patrols of the parks, with particular attention to groups of 10 or more people and anyone involved in team or contact sports.
How did it go? Here’s McConnell’s response via email:
Anecdotally, we did not have any significant issues. Parks were utilized, but I wouldn’t say crowded. Most people social distanced pretty well.
We did frequent walking patrols as a presence. A few groups were reminded to keep a safe distance. We did have some calls from concerned citizens about groups congregating, but most were unfounded.
On its visits to the parks Saturday and Sunday, redbankgreen saw a man practicing soccer kicks alone in Eastside Park as a patrol car rolled slowly by; couples lying in the sun at Riverside Gardens Park; and people sitting far apart from one another on the grass or benches at Marine Park.
But at Count Basie Fields, a trio of women chatted as they walked the track, and two men practiced soccer moves at midfield. Nearby, three young men stood within six feet of each other sharing tips on batting stances, with one putting his hands on another’s shoulders to demonstrate technique.
None of the people described above wore a face covering. Were they members of common households? Were the three people in a boat off Riverside Gardens Park Sunday morning all members of a single family?
redbankgreen observed only one large gathering: eight adults whose arrangement of blankets and beach chairs on the grass at Riverside Gardens Park appeared, from some angles, to comply with six-foot distancing, and from others… maybe not.
At least five were not wearing face coverings. And were those two people sitting together on a blanket a couple…?
Murphy said he would report on the issue at his daily COVID-19 briefing Monday, scheduled for noon and aired live on YouTube.