1/4 Mile” An Expanded View 3.4 miles, as the crow flies, from Route 206 In Shamong Township, NJ, near Hampton Furnace, in Wharton State Forest, is an infamous place called “1/4 Mile”. So named by the off-road vehicle crowd who made it what it is so I suppose they have the right to name it.
I first located “1/4 Mile” 5 years ago while searching Google Earth for areas that may have photographic potential. When I finally got to the area, now named “1/4 Mile”, it had taken over 8 months because of poor winter weather and an extremely wet spring and badly flooded roads. When I did get there my jaw dropped from disbelief at what was before me. I was looking at the most heinous land destruction I had ever seen in the many decades that I had been traveling the sand roads of New Jersey’s Pine Barrens. My first vision was of rutted roads that were nothing but mud and enormous water holes large enough to swallow a large truck.
My high minded aspirations of photographing the area quickly gave way to just pure anger! Here is a synopsis of what I was looking at:
- Vernal pools, the breeding grounds for amphibians in the NJ Pine Barrens run through and over with 4×4 trucks, ATVs and dirt bikes as if they were mall parking lots. Here is what a vernal pools is suppose to look like:
- Bonfire sites in many locations, many still smoldering, all the while there is a ban on fire in the forest.
- Trees axed down to fuel those fires that were burning.
- Liter comprised of mostly beer cans and bottles, household trash, oil cans, clothing and children’s toys (yes, this a family location for fun that is cheaper than going to Disney World).
- At one location there was a 13’ to 15’ fiberglass boat that was dragged out there who knows how? – it was eventually set ablaze within the next couple of weeks
This was a pristine Pineland area reduced to a motorsports mudding tracking abused day and night by literally hundreds of off-road vehicles of every type. Here is a list of endangered plants that exist, or did exist, in the area:
|Long’s Wool-grass||A characteristic Pine Barrens plant. The NJ Pine Barrens is one of the global strongholds. A single plant found next to a denuded area with tire ruts. Possibly a remnant of a formerly significant population.|
|Hirst Brothers’ Panic-grass||Known to be extant in only three states. A candidate for federal protection. In NJ, known from Atlantic County since 1959, but only a few plants have been found in recent years. New population discovered in Burlington County in Wharton State Forest in 2003, within a few hundred yards of active off road vehicle traffic at The Scar.|
|Crested Yellow Orchid||A characteristic Pine Barrens plant. Known from the general vicinity and likely to have been there before the habitat was destroyed.|
|Yellow Fringed Orchid||Best populations in NJ are in wetlands of the Pine Barrens. Known from the general vicinity and likely to have been there before the habitat was destroyed.|
There are quite a few other species of flora that have been destroyed in the area.
Vernal pools exist because of a layer of clay that holds the water in shallow pools and these pools are a breeding ground for many amphibians because the pools evaporate in the summer and no fish live there to eat the eggs laid by the amphibians. The clay layer at these vernal pools has been destroyed to never be re-created.
The mud that makes up a large portion of the ¼ Mile has a rancid smell to it, a mixture of Pine Barrens swamp mud, oil, gasoline, transmission fluids and whatever garbage was dump near-by.
After viewing this environmental disaster I wrote my first blog, out of pure anger, and it was called “The Scar” because this was certainly a SCAR on the Pinelands. I did videos on YouTube as well. I had to give up the blog after about a year and a half because of the threats made to me. Here are some of the emails I received:
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bnunes50 has made a comment on Destruction at the Scar:
hey fag public land is for the PUBLIC not just the hippie tree loving scum.
do us all a favor-
- eat a bowl of dicks
- drink bleach
- wash your mouth out with buckshot
- get a girlfriend, or a hobby and stop getting in other peoples business
feel free to send me your address if anything i have said has offended you, (i hope it has) and we can have a face to face “chat”
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sowawoodenboats has replied to your comment on Cherokees wheelin at Wharton
Your 2wd hybrid was never meant to drive back into these woods. Its funny that people have been wheeing in these woods for so long and now you people are starting arguments, why are you so unhappy that you have to ruin someone elses form of enjoyment, please MIND YOUR OWN BUISNESS there are only several spots i can think of that have been “changed by four wheelers the pine barrens are vast theres space there for you and me!!!!
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MrFreak0naleash has replied to your comment on Cherokees wheelin at Wharton:
@hornerad2 U know what, if I ever met you I’d fuckin shoot you with my 12 guage and throw u in the woods. Go fuck yourself loser. This isn’t ruining anything dirt isn’t alive.
This is only a small faction of emails I received but that was enough for me. You want to answer these people but for what purpose???? I took down the blog (here I am doing it again though).
This area was used annually by a group called Jeep Jamboree up to 2013 (videos verify this). A California based company, Jeep Jamboree, charges a fee for people to join them on off-road “adventures”, something like $500 for a family (great family fun destroying an ecosystem). These events are offered to Jeep owners and their NJ Pine Barrens Run attracted 50 to 70 jeeps with their owners and families. Can you image 50 to 70 jeeps running through a highly sensitive area of the Pine Barrens over a weekend of activities???? Jeep Jamboree has helped destroy our Pinelands and has never offered, to the best of my knowledge, any reparations. They take their profits back to California, profits I estimate to be $20,000.00 just for the Pine Barrens event. Not a bad gig with no responsibility.
So What Has Happened Since My First Discovery of “1/4 Mile”
I blogged, the Philadelphia Inquirer and the Press of Atlantic City wrote wonderful articles, The Newark Star Ledger did a video post that was great, too, and NJN News did a very thorough report about what was going on. Still nothing happened to stop the carnage!!!
A couple of years later a volunteer group posted the area advising No Motorized Vehicles permitted. All of the entrance roads to “1/4 Mile” were clearly posted. Within days most of the signs were torn down. Everything was reposted and the Park Police, the law enforcement group responsible for the state parks of New Jersey, started to issue summons to the people exiting the area past the No Motorized Vehicles signs. Now there are a bunch of laws to prevent the destruction of our public lands but the Park Police would not summons anyone unless the area was clearly posted (go figure).
Traffic started to slow, but not stop completely. This was their area and they were not going to give it up easily.
More recently the area was posted on the outside entrance roads and the interior of it, and the traffic slowed even more. A lot of the signs were torn down, as they always are, but the message seems to have gotten out for the most part. If you walk back to the area now, about 1 mile from High Crossing along the road on the southern side of the abandon Central Jersey R.R. tracks you will still see some tracks from 4×4, ATV and dirt bikes, but much less than the past.
Where Have All The Off-Roaders Gone? That is not such a hard question to answer. The have major money involved in their vehicles and, remember, this is their true love for leisure time (they will even tell you they are conservationist). All over the place is the best answer. There are hundreds of places they have violated so they can move on to anyone of them and just extend the area that they have previous played in. Here are a few places that they retreated to:
An area along Sandy Causeway in Waterford Township in the western edge of Wharton State Forest, I called it “Little ¼ Mile” when I first saw it. A wonderful little vernal pool that is now a mud pit. Fortunately they area has been block off, twice, by concerned volunteers.
Another area, that I think is been being used for some time now, was recently pointed out to me by a concerned citizen who is appalled by what he had seen. Greenwood Wildlife Management Area (WMA) is being overrun with off-road vehicles making a mudding area out of a pristine piece of Pinelands. This area is huge, probably 500 acres. The off-roaders have completely destroyed an “I” beam gate to get to an area that I suspect was a grassland dedicated to quail hunting (hunters have paid, through their license fees, for this type of area, if your favorite trail was overrun by these vehicles you could empathize with the hunters even though you may not agree with hunting). Also in Greenwood is a staging area just off of Route 72 where the liter is so thick you would swear it was a trash dump. I have found trailers parked there from Pennsylvania, twice, with unlicensed ATVs and dirt bikes on them. On one occasion I stopped an ATV operator, who was with his young children, also on their own ATVs, and asked if he know it was illegal to operate his ATV on public lands in NJ. He looked me right in the eyes and said “yes, so what” and sped on his way. This staging area is set up to ride to an area called Lost Lakes. Lost Lakes has been around for years as a partying area and off-road vehicle hang. But it was heavily posted once and the traffic was really curtailed. You would not know that now. The place is an ATV and 4×4 haven.
The Aftermath of “1/4 Mile”
This past March a biologist and I hiked back to ¼ Mile to see what was going on. Believe me there was plenty to observe!
We had a rainy end of winter and a wet beginning of spring in our area. The Pinelands were drenched in water. Normally the sandy soil just soaks up the water and runs into the aquifer, not the case this year. The water sat on the surface for a very long time because it had nowhere to go. Here is some of what we found:
- Compacted soils that the water just runs off. Nothing will grow in this soil for decades to come.
- The roadways at ¼ Mile were challenging to walk because they were so full of water and mud. We spent most of our time walking in the dense woods parallel to the roadways.
- Some of the water holes are have now inched into the aquifer because they are below grade in wetlands areas.
- All of the waterholes/mud holes in roadways were now connected and formed a sort of stream. Water was running everywhere, I thought we could go trout fishing in them. Well, there were no trout but we did see three fish fry (not the first time I have seen this in one of these mud wallows) in the pools and one hole had a 4” pickerel in it. Based on that these pools have been around for some time since they are not connect to any native stream. Of course, an off-road aficionado would tell it is part of their conservation program.
- All of the connected water holes/mud wallows had streams running from one to the other and they were all running into the Batsto River watershed area, which was less than ½ mile away. The Batsto River is one of the purist streams is in the Pine Barrens and now it was receiving thousands of gallons of water laden with gasoline, motor and transmission fluid, and who would guess what else. This is the destiny of all the areas that are over run by off-road vehicles enjoying a day of fun. Well the question is at whose expense?
First and foremost we need to stop this destruction of our public lands. Thousands of acres of pristine Pinelands are being destroyed before our very eyes. Access road to the Pinelands are so abused they are no longer useable by the general public unless they have a monster 4×4 vehicle. I don’t know about you but I don’t think I should have to have one of those type of trucks to visit the place I have paid taxes to preserve. As a result of the road destruction by these off-roaders there are now tens of thousands of acres of Pinelands that are no longer accessible to the general public.
How do you stop all of this – GET ANGRY!!!! GET ANGRY AS HELL!!!!
Demand that the federal, state and local laws that govern the public lands and our Pinelands National Reserve be enforced. The laws are already in place they are just not being enforced! Please speak out to anyone who will listen.