Jennifer Critchley put on a mask and went for a walk in Verona Park yesterday. When Essex County, which owns Verona Park, re-opened the park on May 2, it required face masks for all visitors and posted signs at park entrances to that effect. Critchley passed six people who weren’t wearing masks, and each time she politely asked them to put one on. All six times, she noted on her Facebook page, she got a one-word epithet in response.
Several of the commenters to her post said they had had similar experiences in Verona Park, and noted what seems to be a lack of enforcement by the Essex County Sheriff’s Office, which is responsible for patrolling it. Critchley commiserated, writing, “So many people won’t go to the park because they know it’s the place to go where you don’t have to wear a mask. Like they’re making a point or something. We should all be able to enjoy it, responsibly.”
MyVeronaNJ reached out to Essex County about the incident. “We are aware there are visitors who come to our parks who do not wear face masks/coverings,” a county spokesman wrote back. “We have done and continue to do a great deal to educate the public about the importance wearing face masks/coverings and to notify them they are required to be worn in our parks. These are very challenging times; not only do we continue to battle the Coronavirus, but there is now the added responsibility of working with community groups who are protesting for social change. The last thing we want our Sheriff’s Officers to do is to be confrontational and remove visitors from our parks for not wearing a face mask/covering. Instead, we have directed our Sheriff’s Officers to take a more amiable approach and remind the public about our policy and why it’s important. While the Sheriff’s Officers you witnessed may not have been engaged at those particular moments, I can assure you our officers are taking their responsibility seriously.”