Neutral Laws of General Applicability… we promise

Following contentious council meetings at which many Mahwah residents screamed at elected leaders regarding NY Jews in their parks, changes to Parks rules are on the agenda.

Under the current version of Chapter IX (Recreational Facilities), Mahwah bans the following:
9-1.4 Unlawful Use
a. It shall be unlawful for any person to enter upon or use the recreational facilities of the grounds or buildings thereof or to park any vehicle therein except between the hours of 7:00 am and 11:00 p.m., prevailing time, except as provided in Section 9-1.2.
b. It shall be unlawful for any hoofed animal to enter upon or use Continental Park at any time.

9-1.4A Smoking Prohibited.
a. Definition. As used in this section, “smoking” shall mean the use or possession of a lighted cigar, cigarette, pipe or any other matter or substance which contains tobacco and/or similar products.
b. Smoking prohibited. The Township does hereby specifically prohibit any Smoking in, on, or around any recreational facility as defined in this section.
c. Enforcement. This subsection shall be enforced by any member of the Police Department of the Township of Mahwah. (Ord.#1559, 1)

That was it.  For decades, this seemed to be acceptable and met the needs of residents.  But no more — it’s inadequate.

Ordinance 1816 states in its preamble:

“WHEREAS, the current Municipal Code is inadequate in describing prohibited activities within the Township’s Recreational Facilities (emphasis mine)”

What was the inadequacy?
How did it come to be?
How long has it been inadequate?
What was suggested?

I guess we’ll have to wait and see1.

So we need a new and updated code.  Luckily, the Council has a new set of prohibitions coming, in proposed ordinance 1816 (the entire list appears below this post2).

Under the new rules, you may no longer:

  • Mark, deface, disfigure, injure, tamper with or displace… tables…
  • Grill, barbecue, or maintain an open flame.

In light of recent events and complaints, this seems like it can be a reasonable response.  Personally, I’d create BBQ facilities for residents within the park because they are a nice amenity, but when you put as much as Mahwah into paying litigation expenses, some things are just a luxury.

But what about some of the other items in this list?

  • Construct or erect any building or structure of whatever kind, whether permanent or temporary, or run or string any public service utility into, upon, or across such lands, without written consent of the Municipality.

Was there an epidemic of rogue utilities being run or strung across the Municipality, I’m not aware of?
(I have an OPRA request into the Township regarding issues of stringing / running by local utility companies and I’ll certainly update the post when I hear back)

But the overarching issue here is that Governmental Regulations must be neutral laws of General Applicability.  Legally, you can’t just pick and choose what to enforce or whom to enforce it against.

What will happen if a kid tosses a tennis ball to his dad? (violation of #25)
What will happen if a toddler digs up a rock (violation of #3) or his sister climbs a tree (violation of #6)?
What will happen if a teen rides a bike to the park and leans it against a tree? (violation of #14)
What will happen if MahwahStrong members try to sell t-shirts in Winters Park (again)? (violation of #30 and #34)

These are normal things that normal people do in parks.  They generally harm no one. Will there be a zero-tolerance policy on all of them?  Perhaps only certain ones?

Time will tell if section 9-1.4 will be applied neutrally.  But if past behavior is an indication of future outcomes, I have my doubts.

The next meeting of the Mahwah Township Council is tomorrow, Thursday September 14th at 7:30pm.

  1. I’ve submitted a request to the clerk to find out and will updated the post when I hear back.
  2. Under the new ordinance (1816), the following are added to the list of Prohibited Activities:
    §9-1.4 Prohibited Activities
    a. No person in a public park or in a public recreation area or Green Acres or open space
    area shall:
    1. Mark, deface, disfigure, injure, tamper with or displace or remove any buildings,
    fences, bridges, tables, goals, benches, fireplaces, railing, paving or paving
    materials, water lines or other public utilities or parts or appurtenances thereof,
    signs, notices or placards, whether temporary or permanent, monuments, stakes,
    posts, or other boundary markers, or other structures or equipment, facilities or
    park property or appurtenances whatsoever, either real or personal.
    2. Fail to cooperate in maintaining restrooms and washrooms in a near and sanitary
    3. Dig or remove any soil, clay, rock, sand, stones, trees, shrubs or plants or other
    wood or materials, or make any excavation by tool, equipment, blasting or other
    means without written consent of the Municipality.
    4. Construct or erect any building or structure of whatever kind, whether permanent
    or temporary, or run or string any public service utility into, upon, or across such
    lands, without written consent of the Municipality.
    5. Damage, cut, carve, transplant or remove any tree or plant or injure the bark, or
    pick flowers or seed of any tree or plant, dig in or otherwise disturb grass areas
    without the written consent of the Municipality, or in any other way injure the
    natural beauty or usefulness of any area.
    6. Climb any tree, stand or sit upon monuments, vases, planters, fountains, railings,
    fences or upon any other property not designated or customarily used for such
    7. Tie or hitch an animal to any tree or plant.
    8. Hunt, molest, harm, frighten, kill, trap, pursue, chase, tease, shoot or throw
    missiles at any animal, wildlife, reptile or bird, or remove or have in possession
    the young of any wild animal, or the eggs or nest, or young of any reptile or bird.
    9. Throw, discharge, or otherwise place or cause to be placed in the waters of any
    fountain, pond, lake, stream or other body of water in or adjacent to any park or
    any tributary stream, storm sewer or drain flowing into such water, any substance,
    matter or thing, liquid or solid, which will or may result in the pollution of the
    10. Have brought in or shall dump in, deposit or leave any bottles, broken glass,
    ashes, paper, boxes, cans, dirt, rubbish, waste, garbage, or refuse, or other trash.
    No such refuse or trash shall be placed in any waters in or contiguous to any park,
    or left anywhere on the grounds thereof, but shall be placed in the proper
    receptacles where these are provided; where receptacles are not provided, all such
    rubbish or waste shall be carried away from the park by the person responsible for
    its presence, and property disposed of elsewhere.
    11. Operate any motorized vehicle on any area except the designated park roads or
    parking areas, or such areas as may on occasion specifically be designated as
    temporary parking areas by the Township or Police Department.
    12. Park a motorized vehicle in other than an established or designated parking area,
    or be in accordance with posted directions or the instruction of any attendant.
    13. Leave a motorized vehicle or trailer standing or parked at night in established
    parking areas or elsewhere in the park.
    14. Leave a bicycle against trees, or in any place or position where other persons may
    trip over or be injured by them.
    15. Bring into or operate any boat, raft, or other water craft, whether motor powered
    or not, upon any waters, except at places designated for boating by the
    Municipality. Such activity shall be in accordance with applicable regulations as
    are now or hereafter be adopted.
    16. Navigate, direct or handle any boat in such a manner as to unjustifiably or
    unnecessarily annoy or frighten or endanger any person or wildlife.
    17. Launch, dock, or operate any boat between the closing hour of the park at night
    and the opening hour of the park the following morning, or be on, remain on or in,
    any boat during the closed hours of the park.
    18. Swim in any waters except in waters designated by the Municipality for that use
    and under such regulations and restrictions as have or may be prescribed.
    19. Carry or possess firearms of any description, or air rifles, spring guns, bows and
    arrows, slings or any other weapons potentially inimical to wildlife and dangerous
    to human safety, or any instrument that can be loaded with and fire blank
    cartridges, or any kind of trapping device. Shooting into park areas from beyond
    park boundaries is forbidden.
    20. Grill, barbecue, or maintain an open flame.
    21. Violate the regulation that use of tables and benches follows the generally
    accepted rule of “first come, first served”, except by authorized permit issued by
    the Municipality.
    22. Use any portion of the picnic area for the purpose of holding picnics to the
    exclusion of other persons, except by authorized permit issued by the
    23. Leave a picnic area before all trash is placed in the disposal receptacles where
    provided. If no such trash receptacles are available, then trash shall be carried
    away from the park area by the picnicker to be properly disposed of elsewhere.
    24. Set up tents, shacks, or any other temporary shelter for the purpose of overnight
    camping, leave in a park after closing hours any movable structure or special
    vehicle to be used or that could be used for such purpose, such as house-trailer,
    camp-trailer, camp-wagon, or the like except in those areas designated for those
    25. Take part in or abet the playing of any games involving thrown or otherwise
    propelled objects such as balls, stones, arrow, javelins, horseshoes, or model
    airplanes except in those areas set apart for such forms of recreation. The playing
    of team sports such as football, baseball, lacrosse, basketball, tennis and soccer is
    prohibited except on the fields and courts or designated areas. Roller skating shall
    be confined to designated areas.
    26. No horses or hoofed animals are permitted to enter into or upon a park at any
    27. Possess alcoholic beverages or illegal drugs, or consume or drink same at any
    time or be under the influence of intoxicating liquor or drugs in a park.
    28. Possess or explode, discharge or burn any firecrackers, torpedo rockets, or other
    fireworks, firecrackers, or explosives of inflammable material, or discharge or
    throw them in any such areas from lands or highways adjacent thereto. However,
    the Municipality may conduct public firework exhibitions or issue written permits
    for such exhibitions.
    29. Dogs or domestic animals, excluding service animals, are prohibited from
    entering upon any artificial or synthetic turf fields or fenced-in playground areas.
    30. Solicit alms or contributions for any purpose, whether public or private.
    31. Build or attempt to build a fire. Drop, throw or otherwise scatter lighted
    matchers, burning cigarettes or cigars, or other flammable material within any
    park or on any highways, roads, or streets abutting or contiguous thereto.
    32. Gamble, or participate in or abet any game of chance, except in such areas and
    under such regulations as permitted by the Municipality and upon its written
    33. Go onto the ice or ice skate. Any skating shall be done at the individual’s own
    34. Offer for sale any article or thing, or station or place any stand, cart, or vehicle for
    the transportation, sale or display of any such article or thing without written
    consent of the Municipality.
    35. Paste, glue, tack or otherwise post any sign, placard, advertisement or inscription
    whatever, or erect a sign on any public lands, highways, or roads adjacent to a
    36. No loud music, except for music relating to Township sponsored events.
    37. Enter upon or use the Recreational Facility grounds or buildings or to park any
    vehicle thereon except during the hours of operation as outlined at §9-1.2.
    38. During such time that a concession stand as licensed by the Township is open for
    business, no person shall engage in hawking, peddling or vending of any food,
    beverages, confections of any natme or description in Continental Soldiers Park
    and/or Commodore Perry Field.

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