Phila Inquire: Rough going for state-planned ATV park

TheBronzeMan

New Member
Dec 9, 2007
19
0
1
Rough going for state-planned ATV park

Environmentalists and others oppose the Monroe Twp. site. Enthusiasts say they deserve legal space.


By Troy Graham
Inquirer Staff Writer

In the spring, the meadow where Fred Akers was standing will fill up with a few feet of water and play host to a threatened species of Pine Barrens tree frog.
But in December, this seasonal pond in Gloucester County is nearly dry and frozen, and Akers could point out the tire tracks disappearing into one of the remaining patches of water.

"As cool as this is - and as sensitive as I think it is - there are the ATV tracks. They were out here doing doughnuts and driving around while I was surveying," said Akers, a local environmentalist. "This is like driving through wetlands."

If New Jersey gets its way, this land in Monroe Township will become a permanent playground for all-terrain vehicles, with a track and miles of trails winding through 224 Pinelands acres.

But that won't happen without a fight from environmentalists and neighbors, who don't want to have to listen to engines revving through the woods.

"We hear them over there now, riding illegally, and it's loud," said Joan Stahl, who lives across from the entrance to the property, a former sand mine. "They come in at dawn, and they stay until dark. The noise, the dust, and we're so close."

In a heavily developed state, this fight pits environmentalists who want to preserve the precious remaining green space against outdoor enthusiasts who say they deserve some room.

The state said opening an ATV park at the former Sahara Sands mine was the best compromise for everyone.

Thousands of ATV riders are illegally using state land, and officials hope opening parks will stop most of that riding.

"A lot of it is that they just don't understand the impact on the environment," said John S. Watson, deputy commissioner of the state Department of Environmental Protection. "Our interests are to protect the natural resources of the state as a whole, and we feel we have to do something."

ATV enthusiasts - supporters put their numbers close to one million in New Jersey - describe themselves as environmentalists as well, and they reject claims that their machines have dirty, polluting engines.

Dale Freitas, president of the New Jersey Off-Highway Vehicle Association, said illegal riding happened because the state had not fulfilled a 2003 promise to provide land.

"They know this is a valid user group, and if they're going to stop this problem . . . you have to have options for them," he said.

One current option, the New Jersey Off Road Vehicle Park in Chatsworth, Burlington County, was a former strip mine polluted with burned-out cars and trash. The riders, using volunteer labor, helped clean up the site and plant trees. But in 2008, the park will close, and the land will revert to a state forest.

The state Pinelands Commission and the DEP promised to find three new sites for riders by then. One, proposed for somewhere east of the Garden State Parkway, has received a $338,000 federal grant.

Another, for now, is proposed for Sahara Sands, which is 60 percent mined and 40 percent forest, the DEP's Watson said.

Said Freitas: "If the owner wanted to go back in there and mine again . . . he could bulldoze and grade and do anything he wanted in that pit. But as soon as you mention an [ATV] park, they throw up their hands and say it's a habitat for threatened and endangered species."

The state bought the Sahara Sands site in 2005, using $1.2 million in Green Acres funding. Jeff Tittel, director of the Sierra Club of New Jersey, said spending that money on an ATV park would be a "diversion" from the fund's mission and require approval from a body known as the State House Commission.

"I think DEP's got its head up a tailpipe," Tittel said. "Look, I'm a skier. Is the state going to go buy me a ski area?"

He said his group could sue to stop the park.

But Watson said the Green Acres funding was not a diversion.

"The Green Acres program is for recreation, and this is certainly recreation," he said. "This is no different than a public marina - and we fund public marinas."

Watson said the DEP planned to outline all the pros and cons of the Monroe park in a public document by spring. The agency then would name a nonprofit group to run the park.

That nonprofit, Watson said, would be responsible for getting approvals from the Pinelands Commission and possibly the two townships bordering the park - Monroe and Buena Vista, Atlantic County.

Then there are the neighbors.

Stahl, who works for Buena Vista's mayor, an opponent of the park, gathered 370 signatures on a petition to block its creation.

"We're not going to just sit there and not do anything," she said. "We save all our money to have a nice place, and they can just come in and destroy it."

Akers, the administrator of the Great Egg Harbor Watershed Association, said he objected to the characterization of the Monroe site as a "barren moonscape."

He said the state's own data, which he consulted, showed the existence of threatened species there, such as the barred owl and the tree frog, which he heard on the land.

"They're pretty loud, and they honk like a goose, so you can't mistake them for another species," he said.

Watson said threatened and endangered species were all over the state, including in areas where illegal riding was happening.

"We selected this site because it's a former mine," he said. "It's a disturbed site. It's not a pristine site."

Akers and other opponents said that opening a park in Monroe wouldn't stop illegal riding because people would tire of paying fees and waiting in line.

They said the state needed strong enforcement to register ATVs and discourage illegal riding - a position the DEP also takes.

Freitas said his group also supported more registration and licensing of ATVs and safety and environmental training for riders.

But he said the only law proposed on the matter would carry draconian penalties for illegal riding and didn't address the need for legal parks.

"The problems are only being compounded right now," Freitas said. "The whole purpose of this legislation is to scare people into not buying an ATV or dirt bike."

If given a choice, he said, most enthusiasts would ride legally.

Akers just doesn't think that will happen in Monroe, given the species on that site.

"It's going to be an uphill fight, and it's going to require the DEP and the Pinelands Commission to bend the crap out of their own rules," he said.

http://www.philly.com/philly/hp/news_updat...r_ATV_plan.html

Contact staff writer Troy Graham at 856-779-3893 or tgraham@phillynews.com.
------------------------------
These images are from the same Philadelphia Inquire story
Note: In this photo the tire tracks are from a Fish and Wildlife Vehicle which are the only vehicles that can get onto the property because of the GATE:



"Tire tracks attest to the illegal use of the property, which was once a sand mine."




"Local environmentalist Fred Akers says the 224-acre Monroe site is home to threatened species including the barred owl and the tree frog."




"The Monroe Township property is home to barred owls and tree frogs, but a state official says threatened species are all over the state, including areas the park is intended to spare from ATVs."




"Fred Akers points out a lake created by the mining. ATV riders say they are valid users promised land by the state."
 

Ben Ruset

Administrator
Site Administrator
Oct 12, 2004
7,320
1,109
1,093
41
Asbury Park, NJ
Fred and I had an interesting discussion over this via email. He's pretty much unwilling to see ATV riders ride anywhere in NJ -- even in parks funded by ATV clubs.

Also, you shouldn't hot-link to those images. That's stealing their bandwidth.

"Yes, we bought property close to a mine, but we'll be damned if we let some ATV'ers use this pristine wilderness"

Ugh.
 

TheBronzeMan

New Member
Dec 9, 2007
19
0
1
Oh...I thought the state purchased this site... just for an OHV park?

And how is a giant man-made hole in the ground considered a pristine wilderness?

TheBronzeMan
 

ZZ3GMC

Scout
Sep 19, 2003
88
1
6
Pemberton
Visit site
I went to a meeting last year at Batsto and he was showing slides of "supposed atv damage". He showed one that was very obviously large 4wd truck tracks in a bog. He was trying to say they were atv tracks! He comes up with or makes up alot of inaccurate facts about ATVs and uneducated people buy into his retoric. For example: He says that most atv's are 2 stroke powered and that they spew 20% of their unburned fuel into the environment, coating the ground and everything else around, polluting lakes and streams, killing wildlife etc. etc.. Almost all atvs are 4 strokes nowdays and Ive never seen any signs of a greasy mess left after a 2 stroke goes buy. No oily sheen on any lakes or ponds. No dead animals. Just how many people are recreating on bikes or quads out in the pines on any given weekend. Im out there almost every weekend and hardly see a sole! What about the millions of diesel trucks that are on the road 24/7! I guess they dont pollute. He wants to preserve a gravel pit for future generations to marvel at its natural beauty and to protect the wildlife, that will probably just adjust to the changing environment, just as they did when the mining company came in and dug that big hole! What about all the developement going on? Where will the wildlife go when that new Home Depot goes up next to "Whispering Meadows"?
 

Teegate

Administrator
Site Administrator
Sep 17, 2002
21,771
3,761
1,093
I went to a meeting last year at Batsto and he was showing slides of "supposed atv damage". He showed one that was very obviously large 4wd truck tracks in a bog. He was trying to say they were atv tracks! He comes up with or makes up alot of inaccurate facts about ATVs and uneducated people buy into his retoric. For example: He says that most atv's are 2 stroke powered and that they spew 20% of their unburned fuel into the environment, coating the ground and everything else around, polluting lakes and streams, killing wildlife etc. etc.. Almost all atvs are 4 strokes nowdays and Ive never seen any signs of a greasy mess left after a 2 stroke goes buy. No oily sheen on any lakes or ponds. No dead animals. Just how many people are recreating on bikes or quads out in the pines on any given weekend. Im out there almost every weekend and hardly see a sole! What about the millions of diesel trucks that are on the road 24/7! I guess they dont pollute. He wants to preserve a gravel pit for future generations to marvel at its natural beauty and to protect the wildlife, that will probably just adjust to the changing environment, just as they did when the mining company came in and dug that big hole! What about all the developement going on? Where will the wildlife go when that new Home Depot goes up next to "Whispering Meadows"?

Good points for sure. I have not seen an ATV rider in the woods in ages. The two I did see had law enforcement personnel on them on the road to the FRM from 539. I hate to admit it but I can bet my 30 year old Lawn-boy lawnmower pollutes more than an ATV.

If we all could go back in time and see what the pines looked like as recent as the 1950's, we would marvel at how well mother nature takes care of itself. I am more worried about TV's flying off of fire towers, and the people who do this, than much of his and others complaints.

In the end they can solve quite a bit of this by just keeping Chatsworth open. How hard is it to see that?

Guy
 

Ben Ruset

Administrator
Site Administrator
Oct 12, 2004
7,320
1,109
1,093
41
Asbury Park, NJ
I'm telling you -- first it's ATVs, then it's any motorized vehicle going down Quaker Bridge Road. It may not happen next year, but that seems like the goal of people like Fred Akers.
 

whitingrider

Explorer
Jun 28, 2007
193
0
16
Whiting
Ben & Guy

You guys have the best attitude. It's a shame the eco-nazis like Fred appeal to people who have never gone to the pines. They buy into the wild claims of "millions of acres destroyed by ATV's" sold by this type of man who has no idea the difference between a car track and an ATV track.
Anybody seen the National Geographic show about the surfing hippos in Africa? Those idiotic scientists went to photograph these rare hippos riding ATV's (The scientists, not the hippos). Now they can add the entire coast of Africa to the entire NJ pine Barrens that have been destroyed by ATV's.
Tom
 

Ben Ruset

Administrator
Site Administrator
Oct 12, 2004
7,320
1,109
1,093
41
Asbury Park, NJ
Well, like I said in the other thread, the ORV community needs to step up with their PR effort. It's real easy for people like Fred to get in the paper. The ORV community needs to make sure that their story gets told. They need to market themselves better.
 

ZZ3GMC

Scout
Sep 19, 2003
88
1
6
Pemberton
Visit site
If you look at the PPA website, there is a perfect example of how mother nature takes care of herself. The massive forest fire back in may destroyed 17,000 acres of forest in a little over a week. Two weeks later, the forest is springing back to life! There is no way that orv's caused the same amount of damage that the fire did. How about going after the military with the same tenacity that they are with orv users? In one instance, an errant flair or ordinance can destroy tens of thousands of acres! How many frogs died in that fire? What about all the superfund sites out there? Ive been riding my bikes respectfully in the pines for almost 30 years, and you know what, for the most part it looks pretty much the same as it did 30 years ago.
 

whitingrider

Explorer
Jun 28, 2007
193
0
16
Whiting
Ben, you're right. And so was Russ. We off-roaders should call our local real estate agent to find a run- of -the- mill 500 acre parcel to buy for 2 million dollars then spend another 2 million fighting russ and fred and then losing.
These guys are well entrenched but they have to understand that that no matter how selfish they are, they WILL share the land with the off road community.
 

Ben Ruset

Administrator
Site Administrator
Oct 12, 2004
7,320
1,109
1,093
41
Asbury Park, NJ
Well, hang on.

First, there are sites that get destroyed by illegal/irresponsible ORV use. There's also a lot of damage that a ORV (and by ORV I mean any vehicle used in the woods) can do in wetlands, etc. Bob once came upon a bunch of bog asphodel, which is an endangered plant, mowed down by people plowing through the wetlands that they grow. Also, look at some of the larger puddles in the roads - they're not natural, they get formed by too many vehicles passing by, spinning their wheels, getting stuck, etc.

I don't think that anybody here supports people mowing down rare plants or digging huge ruts through the road.

I won't put words in Russ or Fred's mouth, but I think that they're worried about stuff like that happening. And so am I.

Listen, it makes sense to limit ORV use on State Land. While I support riders, the lack of them makes it much safer for me to drive around (before the ban I would always honk going around sharp curves because there were many times that we would almost run into them). It's great to explore and not hear the noise. And yeah, while the smoke and exhaust isn't the huge problem that Fred makes it out to be, who really wants to breathe it anyway?

What makes the most sense is to build parks that are safe, well maintained, and interesting to riders. The PPA and Fred believe that people won't use them. Well, sure, some people won't. The vast majority of responsible riders will.

What Russ said also makes sense. There's nothing stopping someone from buying up acreage and building a park as long as it works within the Pinelands regulations. Those are the same regulations that anybody who wanted to build anything would have to face. It's highly doubtful that you could build a park somewhere near Chatsworth, for example, but you probably could in Jackson or Manchester.

As for getting the funding, yes, it's going to be hard. But there are ways around it. You could, for example, have a bunch of core people come up with a down payment, and mortgage the rest. Any park you're going to run will need to be set up as a business, so you're going to want to charge some sort of fee to cover admission, liability insurance, etc. The goal would be to generate enough money to pay the mortgage on the land, insurance, and whatever staffing you need.

I don't think the state would just open up land for a park. Chances are they would buy the land, and then lease it to a company (like the NJORV Club) who would operate the park.

The ORV community has a lot of strikes against it. People who live in the Pinelands see all of the illegal riders out. It annoys them. It annoys me too. People who are not into riding don't like the noise of the ORV's. (People in Chatsworth hate the motorcycles that go by all day, too.) The environmental groups are fighting a very easy fight against ORV's, and it's very easy to show a reporter a tire track or a ruined swamp and say that all of this damage is caused by ORV riders.

What the ORV community needs to do is have more public outreach programs. Invite these reporters to ORV events. Hold cleanup events -- it amazes me that every year the JerseyDevil 4WD club sponsors a huge cleanup in Wharton and it receives very little press coverage. I don't think I have ever seen a PPA sponsored clean-up. (The FRMC has one, and I highly respect them for that. In fact, the FRMC is my all time favorite environmental group.)

Whoever is the spokesperson for the ORV community in New Jersey is clearly not doing their job. They need to be the opposite of Fred Akers, but just as skilled in spinning things and getting in the papers.
 

Boyd

Super Moderator
Staff member
Moderator
Jul 31, 2004
6,919
1,207
1,093
Ben's Branch, Stephen Creek
Whiting... just help me understand your position a little better. In another thread you said:

This is just another example as to how far people should want to travel. Am I going to pack up my quads and bikes for a 3 hour drive to Stokes State Forest if a park is placed up there? I sure ain't, I ve got a trail that leads right out of my back yard where I can travel for hours without driving on any paved roads.
It sounds like you plan to continue riding where you choose, and won't use the parks even if they're built. Or maybe I didn't understand you?
 

ZZ3GMC

Scout
Sep 19, 2003
88
1
6
Pemberton
Visit site
I went to a number of clean ups held in the pb's. All the enduro clubs were out in force taking tons of trash and debris out of the woods. The majority of the participants were from the local enduro clubs. I've been to tree plantings, where again, the majority of the participants were enduro club members. We far out numbered the others. My bike is street legal, quiet, I stay on established trails and I keep out of areas that are sensitive and/or posted off-limits. Why should I be limited to a park? Cars and trucks have a much larger foot-print than a motorcycle and are allowed through out the state forest system. I register all of my bikes and I should have the same access to the forest as anyone else. I dont race down dirtroads, tear up bogs, etc. I go through great lengths and expense to keep my bikes quiet so as not to disturb anyone or ruin their day. I make a example by not riding with others that are not legal and quiet. I believe that the majority of orv users are responsible and we are the ones paying the price because of a few bad apples.

There is a new proposal that does not distinguish the legal, responsible users from the illegals. The way this proposed legislation reads is that it is mandatory for all ORV's (defined as 2-6 wheeled vehicles) to be registered, but are all illegal on any state land or private property regardless of the registration, regardless of street-legality. You would not expect to pay registration on a car and not be able to drive it down public roads. You wouldn't expect to give your money without recieving a service in return (taxes don't count). This is no different. A street-legal car or truck you can drive in the pines but because of the wording in this proposed bill you will not be able to ride a street-legal, knobby tired dual-sport motorcycle down those same dirt roads. They mean to tell me that my street-legal motorcycle is good enough for pavement but not good enough for dirt roads? Could I ride a Goldwing Touring motorcycle down those same dirt roads without being penalized?

The point is that all forms of responsible recreation have a place in NJ. We all pay taxes to purchase, preserve and protect these lands. We should ALL be able to SHARE these lands. It's a matter of bringing out what you bring in, stopping for hikers or horsebackriders, not speeding and abiding by the twenty-five mph speed limit on all state forest roads, staying on established trails/roads and keeping off of sensitive vegetation. It's called sharing and being respectful of OTHER forest users besides yourself. It goes both ways (I've seen my share of selfish users in all shapes and forms). In NJ, there's a real problem with people not wanting to share the available public lands (exclusionist). Today it's ORV's are the enemy, tommorow it'll be horseback riders, so on and so forth. When does it end?
 

Ben Ruset

Administrator
Site Administrator
Oct 12, 2004
7,320
1,109
1,093
41
Asbury Park, NJ
There is a new proposal that does not distinguish the legal, responsible users from the illegals. The way this proposed legislation reads is that it is mandatory for all ORV's (defined as 2-6 wheeled vehicles) to be registered, but are all illegal on any state land or private property regardless of the registration, regardless of street-legality.
I have my doubts that will pass. The state DMV has no jurisdiction over what you do on private property with a motor vehicle.

They could effectively shut down auto-racing on private tracks under that law.

Do you have a link to the proposed bill for this?
 

MarkBNJ

Piney
Jun 17, 2007
1,877
64
1,028
Long Valley, NJ
www.markbetz.net
Well I think the distinction should be between those who use the roads and trails for access, and enjoy exploring and getting out into the woods, and those for whom the woods are a neat place to burn some fossil fuel and get some thrills. I don't have any problem with the former group, and dont' care what kind of vehicle they drive in on. I don't have any sympathy at all for the latter group, and think they cause a huge amount of damage. You ORV riders have to face the fact that they are a large component of the community, just as we 4WD owners have to admit the existence of the mudholers and boggers who tear up the wetlands in their Jeeps and 4Runners. The woods are not an obstacle course for motorheads, and I would like to see that sort of thing confined to dedicated areas.
 

Ben Ruset

Administrator
Site Administrator
Oct 12, 2004
7,320
1,109
1,093
41
Asbury Park, NJ
So this is the bill that people are talking about: http://www.njleg.state.nj.us/2006/Bills/S3500/3024_I1.HTM

I read through it fairly quickly. First off, I think it passed. Second, it seems mainly geared towards forcing people to register their ORV's. That's a good thing!

Basically, if they catch you with an ORV on state land, they're going to fine you, and can suspend your license for 30 days. They can also impound your ORV until you prove registration (or register it if it's unregistered), pay the fine, and pay storage costs.

The other thing that I don't like about the bill is that the money taken from registration of ORV's seems to not go towards trails, but to the DMV who will administer the program of registration/education.

Other than that, though, it looks like the fines are lower than what they were.

Well, like I said before: Where are the leaders of the ORV enthusiasts? Why is Fred Akres in the paper and not them? Why are people not getting Honda, Polaris, Yamaha, Kawasaki, etc. involved?

Just posting "call to action" on your website is not going to cut it. The environmental groups are a very strong lobby. If you're going to stick up for your "rights" you need to actually fight for them. Posting bulletins on forums and websites isn't going to cut it.
 
So this is the bill that people are talking about: http://www.njleg.state.nj.us/2006/Bills/S3500/3024_I1.HTM


The other thing that I don't like about the bill is that the money taken from registration of ORV's seems to not go towards trails, but to the DMV who will administer the program of registration/education.
That's the bit that I didn't like either ... lets pour more money into the rathole instead of putting it to good use.

I do think that for whatever reason, reporters don't believe that writing about an off-road club cleaning up Wharton is a news-worthy item but somebody saying that all these evil ORV are destroying the enviroment is, so when someone from the ORV goes to a news agency or puts out a press release about something good that they are doing (like cleaning up a park), it gets pushed to the back burner. After a while, they stop trying....
 

Ben Ruset

Administrator
Site Administrator
Oct 12, 2004
7,320
1,109
1,093
41
Asbury Park, NJ
Well, people who stop trying are not good leaders or believe in their cause well enough.

Give me liberty or give me death.