Wildlife & Natural Resources Management

Updated 06/19/2020

Union County parks follow statewide guidelines for preventing COVID-19; social distance is required and masks are strongly recommended.

Beginning on June 22, Union County will lift certain restrictions on the use of County parks during the COVID-19 outbreak. The updated rules of use are in accordance with statewide guidelines issued by the New Jersey Department of Health.

“Masks and social distance are the only effective tools we have for stopping the spread of COVID-19, so we strongly urge visitors to continue to observe precautions against infection while enjoying outdoor activities in County parks,” said Freeholder Chairman Alexander Mirabella.

Social distancing, wearing face masks, washing hands frequently, and keeping hands away from face are among the basic precautions for preventing COVID-19 and other infections. Persons who feel sick should stay away from others.

The following rules apply to activities in Union County parks during the COVID-19 outbreak.

  • Trail biking: Trail biking is prohibited in all Union County parks. Trail biking was prohibited before the COVID-19 outbreak, and it continues to be prohibited. Bicycles are permitted only on paved paths in Union County parks.
  • Closed: Shared recreation equipment, certain playgrounds (see list below for playgrounds that have reopened), workout stations, and fitness equipment. The Warinanco Sports Center and the Trailside Nature and Science Center also remain closed. The Walter E. Ulrich swimming pool is under construction and remains closed. Watchung Stable remains closed to the general public and is currently assessing plans for the summer. Basketball courts are available only for non-contact drills as of June 22, consistent with rules for similar sports.
  • Reopened with adjustments:Golf courses, archery range, tennis courts, dog parks.
  • Picnic areas: Reservations begin July 1. As of July 1 the maximum number of people allowed per reservation will be 250 if the COVID-19 outbreak in New Jersey continues to trend down. The limit will rise to 500 on July 3.
  • Limited use of athletic fields: As of June 22, use of County athletic fields for team sporting events, including inter-team games, scrimmages, and tournaments, is permitted only for low risk, non-contact sports.
  • Parks that have playground(s) that are now reopened:
    • Cedar Brook, Conant, Echo Lake, Esposito, Green Brook, John Russell, Wheeler, Lighting Brook, Loop Playground, Madison Avenue, Mattano, Mohawk, Mohawk, Nomahegan, Phil Rizzuto, Ponderosa, Rahway, Rutgers Ave, Snyder, Unami, Warinanco, Wheeler

Low risk sports include archery, golf, and other events based exclusively on individual effort such as individual cycling swimming, rowing, diving, equestrian jumping or dressage, sailing, weightlifting, tennis, dance, pole vault, high jump, long jump, marathon, triathlon, cross country, track and field, disc golf, and badminton.

For medium and high risk contact sports, fields will open on June 22 but use will be limited to no-contact drills, practices, and simulations of game situations. No games, scrimmages or tournaments will be permitted for contact sports.

Medium risk contact sports include Lacrosse, hockey, multi-person rowing, multi-person kayaking, multi-person canoeing, water polo, swimming relays, fencing, cycling in a group, running in a close group, group sailing, volleyball, soccer, basketball, baseball/softball, short track.

High risk contact sports include rugby, boxing, judo, karate, taekwondo, wrestling, pair figure skating, football, group dance, group cheer.

Note: additional permissions for sports are anticipated in the coming weeks. Please be patient and help protect the Union County community as we re-open our parks under the guidance of public health professionals.

  • Currently Allowed: Individual activities such as walking, jogging, biking and fishing are allowed. Bicycles are allowed on paved pathways only. No bicycles are allowed on unpaved paths and trails in Union County parks.
  • Use of walking paths:Follow arrows to move counter-clockwise only. Slow users keep right; fast users pass on left. Give way to others to maintain six-foot distance when passing.
  • Masks: Strongly recommended.
  • Parking and hours of use: Union County Parks are open dawn to dusk only; no off-hours use permitted. Drivers must observe parking rules.
  • Report abuse of social distance guidelines to Union County Police: 908-654-9800.

For maps, directions, and more information about activities in Union County parks, visit online at ucnj.org/parks, email parksinfo@ucnj.org, or call 908-527-4900.

Park visitors please note: Stay on marked trails in order to preserve fragile native habitat in County parks. The taking of plants and other wildlife is prohibited. Share paved paths by keeping to the right unless passing others. Bicycles are permitted only on paved paths. Dogs must be kept on leash. All trash must be carried out where receptacles are full or unavailable. 

For more information and updates on all Union County services during the COVID-19 outbreak, including guidance for the Test Center, visit ucnj.org/coronavirus-update.

For general information about COVID-19 and phone contacts for 24/7 assistance with questions, visit the New Jersey Department of Health at nj.gov/health.

Union County Parks are among the most heavily used recreational areas in the region, whether it’s for a soccer match at Warinanco Park or a hike through the 2,000-acre Watchung Reservation.

Maintaining these parks, along with preserving them for future generations, also involves managing the wildlife populations that inhabit these green spaces. In an urban area like Union County, most predatory species are gone. So it is up to Parks to maintain the environmental balance that Mother Nature once handled.

When deer populations far exceed the carrying capacity of a preserve like the Watchung Reservation, they destroy the understory, which is vital to the survival of smaller species.

When Canada Geese stop migrating, their huge numbers not only create problems for park users, but also end up polluting the lakes and ponds.

The Parks System, along with the state Department of Environmental Protection, seeks to maintain a environmental balance in the parks that is healthy, both for wildlife and the habitats.

In this section are more details on how Wildlife Management is carried out in the Parks System.