Ahead of the holiday weekend, the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection says the state parks service is all set for summer.
In a May 23 press release, the agency said it’s ready to kick off the season with lifeguards on duty this Memorial Day weekend at Island State Beach Park, picnic areas for park-goers and newly installed electric vehicle charging stations at several locations.
Comprised of 453,000 acres, including 40 state parks, 11 state forests and three recreation areas, DEP Commissioner Shawn LaTourette said New Jersey’s open spaces “are an excellent choice for a few hours of relaxation, a day off or a vacation.”
“It’s going to be a great summer and we look forward to being the public’s destination for swimming, picnicking, hiking or just quietly taking in the beauty of nature,” he added.
“The tourism economy, outdoor recreation and public lands are vital to New Jersey, and our state parks, forests and historic sites are ready to welcome the public,” said Assistant Commissioner for State Parks, Forests & Historic Sites John Cecil. “We recognize the importance of having the necessary amenities for people, including the ability to charge electric vehicles and swim under the watchful eye of a lifeguard. Take some time and come enjoy a day at the park, in the forest or stepping back in time at a historic site.”
As part of his state budget proposal, Gov. Phil Murphy has proposed a second year of free entrances to state parks, forests and historic sites. If approved by the state Legislature, a fee holiday would go into effect for Fiscal Year 2024, which begins July 1, 2023.
A similar initiative was OK’d for the current fiscal year, so park-goers will not have to pay for parks between Memorial Day and June 30 – regardless of how the budget vote goes.
According to the DEP, lifeguards at Island Beach State Park will be on duty 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., May 27-May 29, and then each weekend until June 19. After that, lifeguards will be on duty daily from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. through Labor Day on Sept. 4.
Lakefront swim areas will open on staggered dates in mid-June, including at High Point, Hopatcong, Swartswood and Wawayanda state parks in the northern part of the state; Cheesequake State Park and Round Valley Recreation Area in the central region; and Island Beach State Park, Atsion Recreation Area (Wharton State Forest), Parvin State Park and Belleplain State Forest in the south, staff permitting.
Detailed swim schedules for each location are available online.
To make state parks, forests and recreation areas more welcoming to visitors with EVs, 10 Level 2 charging stations were added across the state, according to the DEP.
Two charging stations are in place and operational at Cheesequake State Park (Middlesex County), High Point State Park (Sussex County), Round Valley Recreation Area (Hunterdon County), Wawayanda State Park (Sussex and Passaic counties) and Wharton State Forest – Batsto Village (Burlington County).
All charging stations are in the parks’ swimming areas, except at Wharton State Forest.
According to the state, a $45,000 grant from the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities awarded in March 2022 helped fund the 10 electric vehicle chargers. Additionally, a July 2022 NJBPU grant included $150,000 for two DC fast chargers that will be installed at a later date at Liberty State Park in Hudson County.
The DEP is also continuing efforts to hire for a variety of seasonal positions.
Lifeguard positions continue to be available at swimming areas across the state, with salaries starting at $17.50 per hour. Oceanfront guards at Island Beach State Park start at $18.50 per hour.
While prior experience is not necessary, candidates must pass running and swim tests prior to employment. New hires will receive training in cardiopulmonary resuscitation/Automated External Defibrillator use, first aid and other medical matters, and, upon completion, a U.S. Lifesaving Association certification.
Following a successful pilot run last year, the state park service will expand its aquatics program by hiring junior lifeguards at least 15 years old for $16 an hour. Although juniors cannot perform duties for the public until age 16, the position provides a training head start for when they are able to provide full lifeguard duties, the DEP says.
Additional seasonal job opportunities with the State Park Service include general maintenance, naturalists and history educators, visitor services and office assistants. These positions start at $15 per hour and the hourly rate will increase with experience.
Applications are being accepted at www.nj.gov/dep/workinparks.-