Covid vaccine. NJ residents flock outside as vaccine earns free state parks

| 28 Jun 2021 | 05:43

Covid vaccine. As New Jersey residents prepare to head outdoors for the Fourth of July, the state’s parks are already seeing an explosion in popularity, with more than 100,000 people signing up for annual park passes as part of New Jersey’s Covid-19 vaccine incentive.

Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy announced in May that any state resident who has at least one shot by July 4 can get a free state parks pass, which would cost $50 for residents this year.

The 100,000 signups is up from nearly 50,000 earlier this month, weeks after the program was announced, according to the state Department of Environmental Protection, which oversees New Jersey’s parks. It dwarfs the roughly 5,000 annual passes typically purchased in a year.

Although it’s not clear how many people were motivated to become vaccinated by the free parks pass, the state eclipsed its goal of 4.7 million vaccinations last week amid the allurement.

Roughly 70 percent of adults are vaccinated in the state. Most of the Covid-19 restrictions like face masks have ended.

Asked whether the state’s parks could handle the jump in annual pass holders, DEP spokesperson Caryn Shinske said in an emailed statement that the parks see millions of visitors a year.

Attendance in 2020 was about 14 million, down from 17 million, though parks were closed for about a month starting in April and admittance was limited because of Covid-19.