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You Can Get into NJ State Parks for free. More Than 100K People Already Got Passes

by Rob Jennings, NJ Advance Media for

This story is being republished under a special NJ News Commons content-sharing agreement related to COVID-19 coverage. Link to story:

More than 100,000 New Jersey residents have obtained free seasonal passes to state parks via the “vax and visit” program, which is aimed at encouraging additional vaccinations against COVID-19.

The free passes through year’s end are among the incentives included in “Operation Jersey Summer,” among the state’s strategies in continuing to reduce the spread of the coronavirus.

As of Wednesday, 104,253 free passes had been distributed, according to state figures.

Ordinarily, a seasonal state park pass—good for all passengers within a single vehicle, or for an individual entering on foot — costs $50, though residents 62 and older and those with disabilities already were eligible for free passes to the parks.

While many of New Jersey’s 51 state parks and forest facilities always are free to access, about a third charge an entrance fee—either via seasonal passes or daily tickets.

The following parks, according to the DEP, all have entrance fees: Allaire State Park, Atsion Recreation Area, Bass River State Forest, Batsto Village, Belleplain State Forest, Cheesequake State Park, High Point State Park, Hopatcong State Park, Island Beach State Park, Parvin State Park, Ringwood State Park, Round Valley Recreation Area, Spruce Run Recreation Area, Stokes State Forest, Swartswood State Park, Washington Crossing State Park and Wawayanda State Park.

Any resident who has received at least one COVID-19 vaccination shot by July 4 is eligible to apply online and will be given a confirmation email which is then used to access the parks. At the park, a resident must present the confirmation, identification — either a drivers’ license or other government-issued ID — and their vaccination card.

The DEP data does not show whether any of those getting free passes were induced to get vaccinated due to the perk.

Other incentives in Operation Jersey Summer include free beer, free wine at nine vineyards and a chance to win dinner with Gov. Phil Murphy and his wife.