Vacationers Welcomed Back to Bass River State Forest

Jul 04, 2017
Photo by: Pat Johnson The state budget impasse closed Bass River State Forest for three days.

Bass River State Park reopened on July 4 after a three-day shutdown caused by the impasses between the governor and the state Legislature over the 2017 budget. The park reopened at 9 a.m., and by noon Superintendent Cynthia Coritz said the park around the lake was filled to capacity and they were again turning away visitors.

But the campground is still empty with just one space out of 28 taken, although there are four more reservations due later, she said.

Usually the Fourth of July weekend is the biggest holiday weekend at Bass River State Forest, in Burlington County just over the Ocean County line. Day-trippers and families also enjoy picnicking and bathing in the refreshing Lake Absegami, the center of the park and campground.

But at the start of the holiday, campers already at Bass River State Forest were told on Friday they would have to leave by 11 a.m. on Saturday because the governor and legislators were unable to come to an agreement on the state budget, forcing a shutdown of government offices and nonessential services including all state parks, forests, historic sites and recreation areas. On Saturday, New Jersey State Park police were enforcing the closure and patrolling the park grounds.

Coritz said the crowd was very cooperative when they were told they had to leave. “The staff did an excellent job in closing the campgrounds and cleaning up and checking everything while we were closed. We answered about 200 calls on Saturday, and they were glad to talk to a person and were very empathetic about the situation. I and the staff were considered essential services, so we were working. I’m happy to have my seasonal staff back. We’re so happy to be at work today!”

On the state Department of Environmental Protection website, the state said it would refund all camping reservations in full that began on July 1 and the unused portions of interrupted stays. Visit the New Jersey State Park & Forestry website nj.gov/dep/parksandforests/ for any updated information. —P.J.

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