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McKeon, Vainieri Huttle Bill to Keep State Parks Open During Government Shutdown Advances

(TRENTON) – Legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats John F. McKeon and Valerie Vainieri Huttle to require state parks and certain areas to remain open for the first seven days of a state government shutdown was advanced on Monday by the Senate Environment and Energy Committee.

“While families were being asked to vacate their camping trips at state parks on a national holiday weekend, the Governor took the opportunity to enjoy a state-owned beach front property,” said McKeon (D- Essex, Morris). “Families were grossly inconvenienced by the unexpected government shutdown and that should never happen again. This legislation will prevent any further disruption of services, during a government shutdown, for families who wish to spend July 4th weekend at a state park or forest or just taking in historic sites.”

The bill (A-5128) would require that state parks and forests, state recreation areas, state historic sites, state natural areas, and state wildlife management areas would continue to be open to the public for a period not to exceed seven calendar days if a state emergency is declared due to the deadline prescribed by the New Jersey Constitution.

“The state shutdown earlier this month placed many residents out of work, and left many with stranded vacation plans at our state parks and beaches,” said Vainieri Huttle (D- Bergen) “Most camping trips or outdoor plans are made weeks or months in advance. It is unfair, and unreasonable to hold residents’ holiday plans hostage over the Governor’s and the legislature’s inability to meet the budget deadline.”

Under the bill, the Department of Environmental Protection would be required to develop a plan for the continued operation of those locations if such a state emergency is declared which would designate those state employees necessary to continue to provide services.

The bill was approved, 67-0 on July 31 and will now go to Senate President for further review.