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May 11, 2020

Visitors to New Jersey parks leaving behind 'inordinate amount’ of urine, feces in water bottles

These recreation areas have reopened, but their public restrooms have stayed locked to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus

Parks Coronavirus
New Jersey parks Thom Carroll/for PhillyVoice

Public restrooms in state and county parks across New Jersey have remained closed due to COVID-19. Above, is Cooper River Park in Camden County.

Stop urinating and defecating in public parks or face the consequences.

That's the message New Jersey officials are sending after park police reported an "inordinate amount" of urine and feces being left behind in water bottles since parks reopened.

State and county parks reopened on May 2, but public restrooms are stayed closed to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. But that doesn't mean that relieving oneself in public is acceptable, state officials said.

"There is a zero tolerance policy for that," New Jersey State Police Superintendent Col. Pat Callahan said. "The whole idea behind the parks is to give our citizens the ability to go out there and enjoy fresh air and have time outside. That report from the park police was certainly disheartening to say the least. 

"Our park police, our counties, our state police will be on watch for that. We understand that the restrooms are closed, but people should plan accordingly and should not be urinating in bottles and leaving them behind because that could lead to us taking another approach going forward."

Gov. Phil Murphy echoed the message.

"You're not gonna get a warning if we catch you leaving something like that behind," Murphy said. "Folks, please don't do that."

New Jersey does not have a state law prohibiting public urination, leaving local municipalities to adopt ordinances against the act. But state park regulations prohibit "urinating or defecating in any area other than places designated for such purposes."

Face masks encouraged

Face coverings are highly recommended — but not required — to be worn by people visiting state and county parks. But increased signage encouraging visitor to wear face coverings will be appearing in parks. Some park's narrow trails make it nearly impossible to practice social distancing at times, Murphy said. 

"We'd love to see a lot more masking and face covering," Murphy said.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends everyone wear cloth masks when leaving home. Masks do not protect the people who wear them; rather, they prevent sick individuals – including those who do not have symptoms – from spreading the coronavirus. 

All New Jersey residents are required to wear face masks when shopping at stores, such as supermarkets, or when riding New Jersey Transit and private carriers. Employees at stores and public transportation workers also are required to wear face coverings on the job. 

Anyone who enters a restaurant or bar to pick up a takeout order also must wear a face covering. All employees must be provided masks to be worn work. Face coverings are not required if a customer is not entering the establishment to pick up an order. 

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