DEP Announces Virtual Public Meeting to Launch Wharton State Forest Visitor and Vehicle Use Survey

Boyd

Administrator
Staff member
Site Administrator
Jul 31, 2004
9,658
2,865
Ben's Branch, Stephen Creek
Believe it or not, I almost never use Google Earth myself, just thought the .kmz files would be easily accessible this way. Assuming you have Google Earth on your computer, open the 2024 and 2015 maps by double-clicking the downloaded files. They should appear as "temporary places" in the sidebar. Check the MAP2024 box to view the new MAP

g1.png



Uncheck MAP2024 and check MAP2015 to view the old MAP

g2.png



But this is the fun part - check BOTH boxes and click on MAP2024 so that it's selected (gray shading in the screenshot). Now click the transparency button - it's that thing just above the Layers list, to the right of the magnifying glass. Now move the slider back and forth (screenshot shows it in the midde) and you can compare the versions. Here you can see that Swamp Road was apparently in the old version but not the new, for example.

g3.png
 
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RednekF350

Piney
Feb 20, 2004
4,985
3,188
Pestletown, N.J.
Well I’m disappointed, as I thought I would be.
I was hoping to find somebody that was familiar with the West Mill Road situation since the map shows that that road will be open from 206 to Pleasant Mills. The guy that was manning that particular map didn’t know shit about anything. He barely knew what I was talking about.
One of the members of this site is going to try to pick up on the West Mill issue again and I told him I’m getting too old and exhausted but I will help as much as I can.

I did make a phone call yesterday to Hammonton‘s solicitor and he said the only thing that he knows is that Hammonton would still be willing to vacate W. Mill Rd. But he is not sure how that would affect the gate. ?????
Someone told me that they think the gate has been relocated but I’m not sure that’s true .

My disappointment tonight stems from knowing that just about every road I’ve ever used and continue to use to access, duck hunting spots, dog training spots or trapping spots along the Albertson Branch, Blue Anchor Brook, Pump Branch, Gun Branch or the Mullica east of 206, are all going to be off-limits. They all follow water bodies. However, the roads are not close enough to the water bodies for passing vehicles to cause any environmental impact.

The only positive thing I noticed is that most of the attendees appeared to be either woods riders or hunters. I didn’t see a lot of tree hugging, global warming professing, EV vehicle-driving type people. I can’t really say exactly what they would look like but you will definitely know one when you see one.
 

stiltzkin

Explorer
Feb 8, 2022
495
717
Medford
There was a massive turnout to this event. Probably at least 150 people at once late in the day. I do not think that they were expecting this kind of attendance at all. From what I could tell, nearly everybody there was in opposition to the new map. Significant presence there from 4x4 groups and gun clubs. I'm very surprised; I wasn't expecting that either.

I submitted a written letter in opposition, and with alternative suggestions (essentially: block locations, not roads, and actually put resources into enforcing our existing laws). I hope that I get a follow up on it. If I don't get one, then I will probably reach out myself.

DEP was well aware of the West Mill Road situation, and I pointed out that they are showing a route as legally drivable on this map which is currently completely inaccessible by vehicle. They were receptive and understanding of that, although there wasn't any concrete commitment to doing anything about it yet. To be fair, it's probably a more complex discussion than this kind of forum with this many people would permit. I have been working on maps and other documents illustrating the problem, and I plan to follow up with other state officials with these specifics.

I was curious about that too. Are they planning on repairing it and was that gate on the west side the Millers gate? Is that gate legal?

As far as the bridge, they said they had "heard something about that," but that was as much as I got. I would like to follow up on this point as well. Even if the dispute over the West Mill Road gate is resolved and public access is restored, today it would still ultimately be a road that dead-ends at a broken bridge, making it worthless as a through route. To get out, you would have to do an about-face at Pleasant Mills and drive all the way back to 206.

The gate is legal in the sense that Miller went through an official process with the town of Hammonton to obtain an exclusive license for vehicle use on that road; or at least, it seems so. The license he was granted is actually for "the unpaved roadway known as Paradise Drive," which is somewhat ambiguous, since multiple roads are known as Paradise Drive. Assuming that it refers to the Paradise Drive shown on tax maps, that would be a segment of the road that we are calling West Mill Road. The issuance of this license, and the pretenses under which it was granted, are a different matter, and I think it can plainly be shown that most of the assertions in the resolution granting the license are simply untrue.

Additionally, there is a legal question to be resolved here over whether the Town of Hammonton's contention that it has an interest in controlling the right of way on a road on state land, just because it falls within the borders of the town, actually holds up. I cannot really comment further on that.
 

woodjin

Piney
Nov 8, 2004
4,341
327
Near Mt. Misery
Yes.

I would imagine that, if implemented, the non-included roads would have those plastic No Motor Vehicles posts put up, blocking them off.

I was not around here for the 2015 MAP and don't know the circumstances of how it was ultimately defeated, but I hope that this is met with a similar response from the public.
In 2015 the MAP was defeated based on lack of public or stakeholder input. In this newest situation, the state has provided ample opportunity for public input. However, despite a response that could be interpreted as leaning toward few road closures, we find that the extent of closures is very similar to 2015. I really have to look at comparisons Boyd has provided in more detail to state that accurately.
I attended the open house. Each station, highlighted roads slated for closure for a specific reason. Ex : T&E present, historical significance, ORV abuse etc. the forest staff posted at each station were very friendly and professional. However, none were able to answer any of my questions to the extent that I was satisfied. I was expecting quantitative data on the ecological impact vehicular use has had to justify these closures and unfortunately none was provided. Also, the historic relevance of both roads and structure seemed arbitrary and highly subjective. Maybe that is just the nature of historical considerations.

We can safely assume that users of illegal orv’s will be unaffected by the map since this misuse was already illegal and enforceable. If I rode a quad, I would care less about the map as it provides no greater threat than existing laws. It has been well documented that wooden barriers have been successful in stopping ORV abuse in highly sensitive areas. So the question becomes: will reducing vehicular access to the law abiding majority benefit the ecology and cultural history of Wharton?. I guess we’ll find out.
 
Apr 6, 2004
3,619
564
Galloway
In 2015 the MAP was defeated based on lack of public or stakeholder input. In this newest situation, the state has provided ample opportunity for public input. However, despite a response that could be interpreted as leaning toward few road closures, we find that the extent of closures is very similar to 2015. I really have to look at comparisons Boyd has provided in more detail to state that accurately.
I attended the open house. Each station, highlighted roads slated for closure for a specific reason. Ex : T&E present, historical significance, ORV abuse etc. the forest staff posted at each station were very friendly and professional. However, none were able to answer any of my questions to the extent that I was satisfied. I was expecting quantitative data on the ecological impact vehicular use has had to justify these closures and unfortunately none was provided. Also, the historic relevance of both roads and structure seemed arbitrary and highly subjective. Maybe that is just the nature of historical considerations.

We can safely assume that users of illegal orv’s will be unaffected by the map since this misuse was already illegal and enforceable. If I rode a quad, I would care less about the map as it provides no greater threat than existing laws. It has been well documented that wooden barriers have been successful in stopping ORV abuse in highly sensitive areas. So the question becomes: will reducing vehicular access to the law abiding majority benefit the ecology and cultural history of Wharton?. I guess we’ll find out.
Very well-put, Jeff.
 

stiltzkin

Explorer
Feb 8, 2022
495
717
Medford
We can safely assume that users of illegal orv’s will be unaffected by the map since this misuse was already illegal and enforceable. If I rode a quad, I would care less about the map as it provides no greater threat than existing laws.

This was one of the points that I made in my letter. Going forward with this would really only harm accessibility for responsible, law-abiding visitors.
 

bobpbx

Piney
Staff member
Oct 25, 2002
14,419
4,541
Pines; Bamber area
We can stare at and try to analyze these maps all damn day, but there will no way greater to absorb and mourn the impact than to drive the so-called legal routes and see all the side roads lost to us. Until my dying day I will resent the Pinelands Preservation Alliance and New Jersey Conservation Foundation for their heavy-handed zeal in working to deny the public use of roads that are now off limits to drive upon.
 

smoke_jumper

Piney
Mar 5, 2012
1,554
1,082
Atco, NJ
I got caught in work yesterday and didn’t get home until very late. When I did, I did the same as just about everyone else. I started looking at all the maps. It didn’t take very long at all to realize that this map is almost a carbon copy of 2015. After briefly looking through all the maps and getting to the final proposal one thing is clear, they are presenting the case that they “could” close all the roads and probably should but here’s a list of roads that are remaining open. It also doesn’t address the problem the reason they say this is needed. To tackle the problem of illegal off-road use. It’s the same as 2015 just on an 8 year delay. Oh, but now they had “public input” to come up with the same thing that the majority of the public already opposed in 2015.
 
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TacoTues

New Member
Jan 9, 2023
3
8
Chesterfield
Well I’m disappointed, as I thought I would be.
I was hoping to find somebody that was familiar with the West Mill Road situation since the map shows that that road will be open from 206 to Pleasant Mills. The guy that was manning that particular map didn’t know shit about anything. He barely knew what I was talking about.
One of the members of this site is going to try to pick up on the West Mill issue again and I told him I’m getting too old and exhausted but I will help as much as I can.

I did make a phone call yesterday to Hammonton‘s solicitor and he said the only thing that he knows is that Hammonton would still be willing to vacate W. Mill Rd. But he is not sure how that would affect the gate. ?????
Someone told me that they think the gate has been relocated but I’m not sure that’s true .

My disappointment tonight stems from knowing that just about every road I’ve ever used and continue to use to access, duck hunting spots, dog training spots or trapping spots along the Albertson Branch, Blue Anchor Brook, Pump Branch, Gun Branch or the Mullica east of 206, are all going to be off-limits. They all follow water bodies. However, the roads are not close enough to the water bodies for passing vehicles to cause any environmental impact.

The only positive thing I noticed is that most of the attendees appeared to be either woods riders or hunters. I didn’t see a lot of tree hugging, global warming professing, EV vehicle-driving type people. I can’t really say exactly what they would look like but you will definitely know one when you see one.
I wouldn’t be too discouraged. I wasn’t there for most of the open house but at least from 5:30 forward it was quite the showing, these sorts of public comment period events often don’t have anywhere near that number of people attend. It really reminded me of the public comment open houses for SADC soil protection standards over the past year (just without the yelling).

The demographics were definitely like you said. It’s pretty remarkable how much organizing the local clubs must have been doing to get so many of their members out. So yeah, pretty overwhelming showing of opposition IMO.

Also as far as WM Fireline (by their maps road names). The Parks employee at the very last map knew of the situation as soon as I pointed to the yellow line and said “this road is not accessible to the public though”. She said they would “like to see that specific gate, and other similar situations rectified”. That’s great you’d like to see it… now go be the change you want to see in the world, DEP :)

Anyway, my written comment was opposing much of the map but the whole letter is on a gate shaped soapbox outlining how egregious I think the situation is. I brought printed unsigned copies and 3 guys from one of the clubs were happy to sign copies and drop them in the box, so there’s that. I just need to organize more related documents and maps and then will begin annoying committee chairs and legislative staffs into submission on W State St.
 

smoke_jumper

Piney
Mar 5, 2012
1,554
1,082
Atco, NJ
Hey all, here is an image that overlays the 2015 and 2024 map. As you have noted, they are essentially the same thing. So the 1,600 surveys were considered, but had no effect on the new result? Is that what we are expected to believe?View attachment 21870
I noticed Stokes Road. I was curious as to what they saw different between 2015 and a 2023. Why is the section that goes through the wetlands is open and the section that doesn’t is now closed? In 2017 or so that road was repaired well from Hampton Road to the rail line. If that can be done why can’t it be done to other roads?
 

enormiss

Explorer
Aug 18, 2015
592
385
Atco NJ
Maybe it doesn’t apply to us residents

Assuming we can leave as many comments as necessary
Not like the survey, one per customer…
Anybody try twice? I don’t want to be the sucker

I have so many questions/issues one comment it’d be a book
 

Boyd

Administrator
Staff member
Site Administrator
Jul 31, 2004
9,658
2,865
Ben's Branch, Stephen Creek
All: Thanks to Ben, the Google Earth .kmz files are now available for download here:


You'll need to install Google Earth for these (they should be compatible with other apps that recognize .kmz files, but they did NOT work in Garmin Basecamp). See my post above for an explanation of how to use them if you're not familiar with the software - but note that I fixed the new map so it doesn't have the corners cut off like the screenshot above. :clint:
 
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