As outdoor and recreational facilities across New Jersey reopen to the public following months of coronavirus pandemic-related shutdowns, the executive director of the Brick Township Municipal Utilities Authority said the popular Brick Reservoir has no set time frame for reopening.
“While we grapple with the effects of the COVID-19 restrictions and the limits on our liberties, we must act on the information we have at the moment,” BTMUA Executive Director Chris Theodos told Shorebeat. “Perhaps with an overabundance of caution we have been advised to continue to close the reservoir to the public for safety and social distancing purposes.”
Theodos said the BTMUA has taken several factors into account.
“New Jersey has instituted a self-quarantine for anyone travelling from out of state and that current list is 33 states and jurisdictions,” he said. “Considering the uptick in cases, the Governor’s extension of restrictions, the mandatory wearing of masks, as well as the inability of the reservoir to staff to enforce compliance, we will continue to keep the reservoir closed for recreational usage.”
While the reservoir is particularly popular for its walking and jogging trail, as well as its picturesque views, officials frequently point out that its function is to provide a safe water supply for ratepayers. Coupling that responsibility with what would be a time and manpower-consuming obligation to enforce social distancing and other regulations is a significant driver behind the continued closure to the public.
“While we do offer some ‘park like’ activities, we are not a traditional park,” said Theodos. “Our employees, the citizens who use the park and our potable water supply, demands added protections not necessarily required of traditional parks. Unfortunately, there is no mechanism or monitoring in place to assure that people will not congregate in larger groups than advised or practice safe social distancing measures while walking around the reservoir.”
Opening the reservoir in the same manner of other recreational facilities would be impossible for a multitude of reasons, officials have determined. The BTMUA staff, for example, cannot control sanitizing of common areas such as restrooms, hand rails, portable toilets, benches, gazebos or trash and recycling cans. Then there is the safety of the authority’s own essential employees to consider.
“When the reservoir is open to the public, staffing by Brick Utilities must be provided and we must safeguard our employees from the general public,” said Theodos.
The closure would remain in place “for the time being,” he said.
“As we gather further information, our policy may change,” he added, advising residents to keep checking the authority’s website for updates. “Our health and that of our customers is our only concern. We will continually review the situation and be guided by our commitment to do what is best for all concerned.”