New Jersey state parks, forests, and recreation areas are free to all for the summer

View from the beach at Barnegat Lighthouse State Park New Jersey. (michaelmill / BigStock)

View from the beach at Barnegat Lighthouse State Park New Jersey. (michaelmill / BigStock)

Visitors to all of New Jersey’s state parks, forests, and recreation areas will get a break this summer. Governor Phil Murphy announced Wednesday free entry for all, including those visiting from out of state. The fee waivers begin Memorial Day weekend and do not include camping, programming, or fishing permit fees.

Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Shawn LaTourette announced the waivers at the annual “State of the Shore” address in Asbury Park.

“From High Point State Park in Sussex County to Cape May Point State Park in Cape May County, the state park system provides endless opportunities for recreation – from swimming, hiking and kayaking, to picnicking, exploring nature, and experiencing our rich history,” LaTourette said in a statement.

New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy said he included the fee waiver in the FY2023 budget to encourage tourism, and make the parks accessible to all.

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“The fee holiday also promotes access to green, open space; thriving waterways; and the many natural wonders that make us proud to call New Jersey our home,” Murphy said.

Refunds will be available to those who have already bought an annual park pass. New Jersey’s one state-run beach, Island Beach State Park, will open on May 28 with lifeguards on duty. The state’s lakefront lifeguards will start working in mid-June.

New Jersey also issued its “State of the Shore” report on Wednesday. Officials say water quality monitoring and coastal flights show a clean bill of health for the Atlantic Ocean and the state’s lakes.

The DEP says beach closures are rare but occur following heavy rain events when stormwater systems get overwhelmed and pet waste and droppings from wildlife such as geese and gulls flow into lakes, rivers, and the ocean. High concentrations of bacteria can make swimmers sick.

Mild winter storms over the past four years and beach replenishment have helped maintain the state’s shorelines, according to the DEP.

Some beach areas in Delaware were not so lucky with storm erosion. The Nor’easter that blew through earlier this month damaged a number of Delaware beaches. The Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control says Navy crossing at Cape Henlopen State Park is closed to visitors along with Keybox, Conquest and Faithful Steward at Delaware Seashore State Park.

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