Mayor Andre Sayegh announced the re-opening of Great Falls National Park and Eastside Park on Thursday morning.
Municipal officials had closed all parks two months ago when coronavirus cases nearly doubled within a 24-hour span.
Sayegh said the two parks will open on Friday. He said Eastside Park will open at 6 a.m. and close at 8 p.m. However, the playground, workout, and ballfield areas will remain closed. Great Falls lacks mechanism to open and close, but makeshift barriers were installed to keep people out of the park.
“If people are not on their best behavior; if they are not practicing social distancing; if they are not taking the situation seriously; we will quickly reverse course,” said Sayegh during a press conference at Overlook Park. “We do understand it’s Memorial Day weekend. People may be suffering from cabin fever.”
Sayegh said he and his family will stroll through a park to demonstrate social distancing on opening day.
“This is not a license to run wild,” said public safety director Jerry Speziale. “We’re doing this so people have an area to walk and have some fresh air.”
But people have been running wild in the parks. Dozens of people have used both Eastside Park and Great Falls during the ostensible closure period. Pictures widely circulated on social media shows little social distancing among the parkgoers at Great Falls over the past two months.
Police enforcement at parks have been patchy over the past two months.
Speziale said he will have a Covid-19 enforcement unit during the weekend to handle enforcement and issue tickets to those who violate rules.
Sayegh said he looked at data to open the park. Number of infections in Paterson has fallen sharply in May. He said hospitalization at St. Joseph’s Regional Medical Center has dropped by from 466 to 250.
The mayor says he will consider re-opening other parks on a weekly basis.
Paterson has 43 parks, fields, and other recreational spaces.
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