No more fun in the Pines

rblanda

Explorer
Feb 6, 2003
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Winslow, NJ
www.eblanda.com
No more fun in the pines

Every member of our family is involved in some sort of high-stress career. In light of this, five of us take frequent camping trips to Godfrey's Bridge or Hawkin Bridge in the Pine Barrens. We've been visiting these sites for well over twenty years. It's a real stress reliever and we really enjoy ourselves. We also take great pride in helping with excess litter that we find. We always remove more than what we came with. The children also help with the litter.

Last weekend, after sundown, we were startled by "the sneaking ranger crew." These rangers sneak around in the dark, approach your website with extreme stealth, then blare you with overpowerful flashlights. There is no warning or signal that they are approaching you. This happened three times throughout the evening. After they blind you with the flashlights comes a series of questions and wandering flashlights that peruse your campsite looking for - well, who knows what they are looking for. It is very disruptive and really puts a damper on your conversation about the tree frogs.

We were not the only ones to complain about this.

We follow the rules of the pinelands to the "T." After being startled three times by these flashlight-yielding "stealth machines," we're not happy.

When is this disruptive, roving "stealth-crew" going settle down? It's really ruining our good time. It's no wonder people camp illegally.
 

Trailhead00

Explorer
Mar 9, 2005
375
1
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43
Haddonfield, NJ
Totally agree.

They often call the NFL the No Fun League and New Jersey is becoming, or has become, the no fun state. I totally agree with you about the rangers, they have increasingly become more of a pest than anything else. As you probably know, you cannot consume alcohol or even transport it across state property and of course a state forest is state property. To me that is part of camping. If I want to camp, have a fire, roast marshmellows and crack open a beer I should be able to. The rangers go around like they are looking for Osama Bin Laden when it comes to alcohol. To be honest I have not seen any problems with alcohol at the campsites, I could understand more if there had been an ongoing problem.
Just look at any other state, u ask them if you can drink while u camp and they respond with a dumb-founded look, "why couldn't you?" Not that drinking is all that important to me, just takes the fun out of camping sometimes when you feel like u are constantly being watched, and for what?
The other is they have cracked down on is 4 wheeling. Me and my family have gone 4 wheeling in the pines for 30 years and now they are making it almost impossible. A ranger told us we can't even drive through a puddle in the Wharton State Forest, and I don't mean little side roads you are not supposed to go down, I mean roads like Quaker Bridge. They are giving everyone tickets. Just no fun anymore and not worth it. Hey if you want to protect the area fine, just put a big fence around it and don't let anyone in.
Hate to keep going on, but all my friends have left this state for a reason and it's getting harder and harder to stay. I know for my outdoor adventures I now travel to PA where they cater to the outdoor enthusiast.
I know the rangers have the same power as the police do in the woods, but come on, give it a break and calm down, people are there to enjoy themselves and I know more and more people that feel like they are being told to go elsewhere.
 

rblanda

Explorer
Feb 6, 2003
108
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16
Winslow, NJ
www.eblanda.com
No kidding.

I couldn't agree more. Perhaps if someone sent some comments to the Courier Post or other publication, they would start listening?

I don't know what else to do except camp and fish elsewhere. I'd hate to illegally camp, but what else are we supposed to do? Even the wilderness sites at Godfrey's are overrun by Ranger Dick.
 

long-a-coming

Explorer
Mar 28, 2005
778
14
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46
Berlin Twp
try Batona

I have spent the past two Saturday nights at Batona Campsite. 2 weeks ago I had the entire place to myself except for the deer and beavers and they were fine companions. Not a single ranger! Last Saturday night the place was packed with scouts and others. Again no hassle from rangers, they did do drive-bys. I was not drinking at the site because I was with a group of disabled people who I work with. We probably would of been hassled had we been drinking but my best advice is to be extremely discreet about it. In conversations with rangers they assume we are going to throw the cans in the woods and that is the real reason they say they are so vigilant. I know most of us are responsible but a couple of jackasses ruin it for all.

I have been nailed by a ranger while canoeing on the wading, as I was coming around a bend sipping on a cold one and this woman was hiding in the underbrush. That really sucked.

My question is are there good spots remote enough to camp and have a campfire and of course pack in/pack out and get away with it?
 

Trailhead00

Explorer
Mar 9, 2005
375
1
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43
Haddonfield, NJ
In Texas.....

I went tubing down some river in Texas a couple of years ago and they actually asked us if needed something to put the beer in! Haha, gotta love it. I do agree that usually a couple of morons ruin it for it everyone else. But c'mon, hiding in underbrush to catch a grown man drinking! I know the one female ranger is very tough, I have run into her before and she was borderline out of control with how she acted. We were parked on Quaker Bridge talking and she made us get away from our vehicles and searched each one, inside and out! What a joke! Be careful with what u say, the rangers look at these websites. Sounds rediculous but they were monitoring another website and went after certain people. Oh well, I no longer care too much, I just go elsewhere, like the rest of people in this state. I remember years ago my friend got caught drinking while he was fishing by a ranger they called "Double Barrel" (sounded like his last name). After getting his butt chewed out by him he had to go in front of Judge Bozarth. So as you can imagine he was put through the ringer. He had to pay for every can of beer and he had a full case!!! Don't even get me started with Mr. Campbell the head of the DEP here in NJ. That's for another day. Everybody enjoy their weekend!
 

wolfspider05

Explorer
Nov 12, 2004
218
1
18
35
Riverside Nj
I was visiting AP hill and this happened to me in pitch blackness, they came from nowhere. I guess they were checking to see if people had alcohol or appliances that they throw off the tower. Before they left the said "you never seen us here". I can understand how they have problems with kids going up there and partying etc. But a campsites? And doing it more then once in a single night is alittle uncalled for.
 

Boyd

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Jul 31, 2004
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rblanda said:
These rangers sneak around in the dark, approach your website with extreme stealth
Better make sure there is no alcohol on your website! ;)

Seriously, I have mixed feelings on this one, but I've never camped in the pines. In my 12 years of exploring I have never gotten more than a friendly wave from a passing ranger and I've been glad they were around. But the behavior you describe is pretty bad.

On the other hand, I see so many beer cans and so much trash in the woods that really upsets me. So if the rangers are making the people responsible for this "go to Pennsylvania," then that isn't such a bad thing...
 

Ben Ruset

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Trailhead00 said:
The other is they have cracked down on is 4 wheeling. Me and my family have gone 4 wheeling in the pines for 30 years and now they are making it almost impossible. A ranger told us we can't even drive through a puddle in the Wharton State Forest, and I don't mean little side roads you are not supposed to go down, I mean roads like Quaker Bridge.
That is not true. First, the only four wheeling that has been banned on State Land is by dirtbikes/quads. Pickups, SUVs, and dual-sport motorbikes are legal, as long as you stay on trails that are marked on the USGS topo maps. (This is what I heard from the Rangers at Batsto).

Since Quaker Bridge road is a real road and not a trail, they can't fine or even harrass you for going through puddles or whatnot. The only laws that apply to that road are the normal Title 39 laws.

I've always had good luck with dealing with rangers. My one bad experience (caught with alcohol at Brooksbrae) was my own fault, and I paid the $72 fine.
 

Trailhead00

Explorer
Mar 9, 2005
375
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Haddonfield, NJ
4 wheeling

I don't know how they could stop us from going through puddles on major dirt roads like Quaker Bridge, but they told us we could get in trouble for it. Sounds crazy, I know. Now if they said don't go in there and rip the hell out of it, that is one thing, but they did not say that. I have quite a few friends get tickets for getting stuck on some of the side roads. Hey it looks like a passable road to me and I'm sure they were all on a USGS map. They also do not offer any help if you get stuck. I know some people have some pretty serious off road rigs and know where and what they are doing but there are a lot more people with little SUV's and aren't really sure where they are going. You hear stories and kinda makes you nervous about going out there and getting in trouble. Oh well, I know this is not an offroad or 4x4 website. I have just heard more stories than usual about the rangers bothering people. Maybe I just need to relax this weekend. Oh yea, go Danica Patrick this weekend at the Indy 500!
 

bobpbx

Piney
Staff member
Oct 25, 2002
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Pines; Bamber area
Sneaking up on you 3 times is outrageous and I would write a letter and send it several places. Damn them! I hear Lebanon does the same damn thing. What they should do is allow 3 beers per person or a bottle of wine for two people.

I have always wondered. If I were stopped driving or camping and drinking an O'doul's non-alchoholic beer, what would they do? My thought is they can't do anything because an alchoholic beverage is defined as one with less than .5% alcohol, which o'doull's is. I really like drinking it when I don't want the overbearing feeling of alchohol.
 

BEHR655

Piney
Feb 19, 2003
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Merchantville, NJ
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Trailhead00 said:
I don't know how they could stop us from going through puddles on major dirt roads like Quaker Bridge, but they told us we could get in trouble for it. Sounds crazy, I know.
When you say "going through puddles" do you mean just driving through them to get from one side to the other then continue on? Or do you mean tearing them up, making them mud holes, havinig some fun? When that sort of thing happens it make them un-passable for everyone else that does not have a serious 4x4. It also means that the state will eventually (and not usually fast enough) have to fix them at tax payers expense. I think it sucks that there are not many areas where 4x4'ers are allowed to do this but I think it sucks even more when the roads in the Pines get torn up by some people having fun. Having fun should never effect anyone else adversely.

Steve
 

rblanda

Explorer
Feb 6, 2003
108
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Winslow, NJ
www.eblanda.com
I clean up more than most people

I always tell my boys that a part of camping is cleaning up the mess that others leave behind. My oldest is always armed with a trash bag in his pocket. Now of course they don't commend this, just chastise us when they want. I think you're right. I'll write a letter.

And I'll send a copy to the courier post. Perhaps with signatures from the rest of the campers in our group.

What do you think?
 

Badfish740

Explorer
Feb 19, 2005
589
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Copperhead Road
I don't know if any of you remember but I had posted a while ago about camping at either the wilderness sites or getting a cabin at Atsion. I eventually decided against it for this very reason-it makes no sense to me that adults aren't allowed to consume alcohol responsibly in these areas. I didn't want to feel like I had to constantly hide what I was doing from the rangers. I think a letter to one of the major south Jersey papers is actually a great idea because honestly who is going to not see our point? I mean maybe the greenies might speak out against it because they would see an argument for alcohol at the campsites as drunken rednecks wanting to destroy the wilderness, but I think most would see through such a thin line of reasoning. I would certainly be willing to lend my name to any such petition, letter, etc...
 

Ben Ruset

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Unfortunately it's hard to get people behind an issue when it's pro-alcohol.

And, from what I've seen with my dealings with the "powers that be" in NJ, the voice of the common man (or woman) is ignored.*













* Unless you're represented by a group that makes a lot of political donations.
 

Boyd

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rblanda said:
And I'll send a copy to the courier post.
You'd better hope that you don't run into the guy who hassled you before, and that he doesn't make a connection. Personally I think it would be wrong to try this in the court of public opinion without first going through the park service channels. And I also agree with Ben that the public is not likely to get behind relaxing any existing drinking laws. Neither are the lawmakers. If they were to change the rules and somebody got killed diving into the Batsto river after drinking one beer, then their family would probably sue the state and various officials for changing the law.

I don't know anything about those rangers, but they probably have to deal with some pretty obnoxious people from time to time, and that's probably made them over-sensitive on this subject.
 

woodjin

Piney
Nov 8, 2004
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Yeah, write the letter. I'm sure the rangers do have to deal with obnixious people but it is their job and they should be able to differenciate between Jerks and people just trying to mind their own business.

During a period of heavy rain fall I had pulled off a road to a sandy bog edge in my jeep. I was parked there playing my guitar when a Ranger Miller pulled up and ticketed me for driving off an established road and driving over wetlands. I laughed when he told me this 'cause I though he was joking. He was not. He explained that I had driven over his grass (yes HIS grass, apparently he owns the grass) I explained that I only drove over sand, and only through water because of the rain. No good. So yes, a puddle is wetlands apparently. I had an old license of mine in my wallet (in addition to my current license) because it had a photo, my current license does not. He told me he was going to write me a ticket for carrying an expired license (what!) but decided to let me slide on that.

Incidently, when leaving the area, he avoided the sand and water I drove through and plowed right through a stand of leather leaf and pickeral weed. I went to contest it in court, made a deal with the prosecutor to reduce the two tickets to just driving off an established road. Waited 4 and a 1/2 hours in court and got hit with a $360 something dollar fine by the judge. Which is more than the two tickets would have amounted to if I just paid them.

I thought I was going to go postal right there in the court room and anybody who knows me can attest that I am, by nature, a very calm and controlled person. The situation has left me bitter. I didn't endanger or disrupt any plant or animal in my actions that day. I'm a member of the Pinelands Preservation Alliance for God's sake!!

I've had a few other experiences with rangers but nothing to complain about. But if you see a ranger coming at you, be afraid, be very afraid

Jeff