It wasn't large crowds that caused problems at New Jersey county and state parks this weekend — but what they left behind, according to State Police superintendent Patrick Callahan.

Mother's Day weekend was the second consecutive weekend Gov. Phil Murphy allowed the parks to be open for passive activity, after earlier closures aimed at slowing the spread of the novel coronavirus. Playgrounds, visitor centers, picnics and buildings — including bathrooms — remain closed.

As a result State Park police reported "an inordinate amount" of urine and feces being left behind in bottles, Callahan said.

"There is a zero-tolerance policy for that," Callahan said Monday at Murphy's daily coronavirus press briefing, calling the report "disheartening."

"You're not going to get a warning if catch you leaving something like that behind. So please folks, don't do that," Murphy said.

The governor also said he would like to see more park-goers wearing face coverings, though they're optional at parks under his executive orders. He said signage would be put in parks by the Department of Environmental Protections "imploring" the use of masks.

"You've got a lot of parks where the trails are very narrow and you can't social distance. You just physically can't without going off the edge or going into the thicket of the woods. It's just impossible so the more face coverings we can get the better," Murphy said.

Murphy said there is "less stigma" to wearing a mask in public.

"It's just what we're doing these days," the governor said.

Crowds were smaller in parks on Saturday, as the day was cold. Seasonal weather with warmer temperatures in the 60s and sunny skies brought out people to parks Sunday.

Ramapo Mountain State Forest, Ringwood State Park (Skylands Section) and Norvin Green State Forest in North Jersey filled to capacity on Sunday and were closed off, according to the state Department of Environmental Protection.

The weather will be much improved this coming weekend and bring crowds back out, according to New Jersey 101.5 Chief Meteorologist Dan Zarrow.

"A pattern shift means New Jersey will finally taste sustained warmth later this week, with high temperatures reaching the 70s and 80s. Friday could turn out to be our warmest day of the spring season, so far," Zarrow said. "It's not a perfect forecast though, as the warmth and humidity could fuel a few showers and thunderstorms late on Friday too."

New Jersey currently allows activities including hiking, fishing, hunting, boating, canoeing, walking, running or jogging, biking, birding and horseback riding in its parks. Gatherings, team sports and barbecues are not allowed.

Contact reporter Dan Alexander at Dan.Alexander@townsquaremedia.com or via Twitter @DanAlexanderNJ

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