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Montgomery Area Parks and Hiking Trails Closed to Prevent Spread of COVID-19

All Montgomery Township parks, along with state and county parks, closed indefinitely as of sundown on Tuesday, April 7, as a precaution to prevent the spread of COVID-19.


Rocky Hill playgrounds also are closed, but the open space preserve behind borough hall was still open as of April 8, according to the borough website.


"I know this is really going to be hard for everyone," Montgomery Mayor Sadaf Jaffer said in a telephone interview on Tuesday. "These decisions are not made lightly. We have to do what we can to protect everybody's health and safety."


Downy Woodpecker at Skillman Park in Montgomery Township as seen during a walk in April. Photo by Barbara A. Preston

Montgomery Township is following the lead of NJ Gov Phil Murphy. The governor issued Executive Order 118 closing all county and state parks, and forests, due to the COVID-19 crisis as of 8 pm today. Murphy said the parks and forests were too often becoming gathering places where social distancing is not being observed.


This order impacts all Somerset County parks, including Skillman Park, and the 4,000-acre Sourland Mountain Preserve. The D&R Canal State Park will also be closed.


Montgomery Township Parks and Pathways have been a great source of respite and comfort throughout the pandemic. "No elected official wants to do this," Jaffer said. "Our numbers of people infected with the virus are lower in the township. This may give people a false sense of security as we are seeing numbers quite high elsewhere in New Jersey, even in our nearby communities."


As of April 7, Montgomery Township had 32 cases and Rocky Hill had three. No deaths have been reported in these towns.


Franklin Township, just to the east of Montgomery and Rocky Hill, is reporting 253 cases and ten deaths. Hillsborough Township is reporting 83 cases and three deaths. For more information, visit the NJ COVID-19 website.


Many other municipality-run and foundation-owned parks are following suit and closing. The Watershed Institute, for example, will close the trails and parking lots to the public effective at the end of the day on April 7.

"Based on the closure of NJ's state and county parks, the Watershed has made the decision to close the reserve to the public," according to Eve Niedergang of the institute. "As soon as it is safe to reopen, we will do so. Stay safe and stay healthy."


Jim Waltman, executive director of the Watershed, said: "I believe the additional crush of visitors that would come to the Watershed in response to closure of Mercer Meadows, Washington Crossing, and other parks in and around us, combined with the behavior of hikers that some staff have already seen on our trails, leaves us with no other real options."

Hikers at the Sourlands Preserve pre-pandemic.

"It's very important that we act as consistently as we can with the governor and I believe that this step is necessary to do that," Waltman said. "We will be placing cones at the end of the entrance driveway to indicate that we are closed."


In Hillsborough, the 1,000-acre Duke Farms closed its park and hiking trails to the public on March 14 until further notice. A private foundation owns and operates the property.

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