Wharton M.A.P.

Wharton M.A.P. (Motorized Access Plan)”

A Personal Opinion

What is the M.A.P. – It is a plan to, first and foremost, protect Wharton State Forest from the ravages of excess off-road vehicle use that has gone on for years, nearly unabated, and has taken its toll on the forest’s resources.  This abuse has destroyed prime wetlands, forest habitat, wildlife habitat, all forms of infrastructure, cultural and historic sites and has turned many miles of sand roads into impassable muddy mires that prevent use of the forest by citizens who do not have, or intend to obtain, an off-road vehicle.  Many roads are so poor that first responders and Forest Fire Service vehicles can not use them either.

Who developed the M.A.P. – The Stewards of the forest and the Forest Fire Service, the professionals that we hired to preserve and protect our public lands, have spent years gathering information that form the basis of the MAP that will preserve our natural heritage and allow full access to the Wharton State Forest. Every trail, path or road has been tracked with GPS to insure accuracy of the developing map.  The plan takes into account the preservation of wetlands and forest habitat balanced with access to motor vehicles.  Where motor vehicles will not be permitted under the plan access will still be available to hiking, biking and equestrian endeavors.  Under the plan people who enjoy passive recreation in the forest will not have to be run off roads by enthusiastic off-roaders, will be able to have areas that will be free of noise and dust, making their experience much more pleasurable. Wildlife will have homes that are less disturbed by noise and habitat destruction. Our State Forest were never intended to be motorsports arenas even though the activity has been going on for years.  Recognizing this the M.A.P. is in development in order to return the forest to a more natural state, one that everyone can be proud of.

Video

Please watch the video below.  The activity you see here has been going on long before this video was produced by a large organized Jeep group, and has been going on ever since up to the present.  There are many off-road clubs and groups that run through the forest like it is the WILD WEST! I recently encountered a couple of groups from Philadelphia using ATV’s (illegal in all NJ public lands) in a Wildlife Management Area (WMA), none of the vehicles were registered and when asked if they knew it was illegal to operate their ATV’s there they said “yes, so what!”  Please turn down the sound on the video as it is rather painful to listen to.  After watching please continue with the text below.

Opinion –  some of the very people you observed in the above video are fighting tooth and nail not to have Wharton’s M.A.P. put into place.  You can understand why…………they will lose their playground.  All of the off-road groups, ATVs, dirt bikes and 4 x 4s have a lot of money invested in their equipment, some of which I am sure was purchased just because they could go to Wharton or our other public lands and test it against our precious Pinelands and get away with it. Once the MAP was introduced the social media world lit up with keyboard jockeys typing back and forth to each other into the night until they came up with reasons that they felt they could use to prevent the MAP from going into effect.  Much of the information was fabricated in their own minds because they did not go to the source to find out what the MAP is really about.

Some of the current major complaints –

The MAP was done in secret without public input – the secret part is nonsense. Many groups and clubs along with other State agencies were informed that it was being worked on, including Jeep Jamboree.  The Forest Fire Service worked hand and hand with Wharton personnel in developing the proposed MAP to insure public and fire fighter safety. When has it become necessary for the Superintendent of the Forest or the Forest Fire Service to consult the public about how to save the forest from abuse and fire prevention?

The MAP is closing too many roads – NOTHING is being CLOSED!  Every trail or path proposed for closure is available to hiking, equestrian pursuits and biking.  There will 225 miles of roads going through all the major parts of the Wharton Forest that motor vehicles will have access to.  Some of the numbers quoted by those opposing the plan are erroneous and over stated. An interesting fact is that Yosemite National Park with its 761,266 acres and $70,000,000 (this is 70 million with an M, Wharton’s maintenance budget is roughly $40,000 a year, that is thousands with a T for TINY) budget has just 214 miles of motor vehicle access.  Many of the so called “roads” are not roads to start with, they are fire push lines and old logging trails.  For years the off-road groups called everything in the forest “trails” now they have renamed them all “roads” so their cause looks more impressive.  Many of the areas discussed for closure to motor vehicles lead to nowhere or go to highly sensitive areas like wetlands, endangered species habitat, river access that has been abused and needs protection.  There is only one case, that I am aware of, where the trail slated for closure is a mile long. There is no state or federal forest that I know of that does not have areas closed to motor vehicles to keep the areas more natural for enjoyment of the public and the wildlife.  Hunters like those areas because the game is not spooked by noisy off-road vehicles and it limits access giving them a more enjoyable hunting experience. In such areas horseback riders do not have to be worried about horses being spooked by off-road vehicles traveling in their riding areas. 

The MAP was developed so certain groups would control the forest – Nonsense! All organizations that work within the State Forest have to have permits and obey guidelines set by State Forest regulations. There are no exceptions. 

Roads that are being repaired are being done improperly – Since when did everyone become an engineer?  The roads are being repaired with local materials and the materials that are needed to do the job correctly. The Fire Service is in charge of doing the repairs and they are making the roads safe for use by the general public and for first responders and fire safety. So many roads have been damaged beyond normal use that it is going to take quite some time to get them open and in usable condition and, then, maintain them.

The people who are not responsible for the damage to the forest and its roads are being punished for the work of a few – I would first disagree that the damage is being done by the work of a FEW!  But……..YouTube is absolutely covered with video after video of 4 x 4 jeep  types, ATVs and dirt bikes raising holy hell in the Pinelands and Wharton State Forest in particular.  That is not a FEW, that is called MANY.  That being said how do we tell the bad guys from the good guys.  If I put 1000 off-roaders of all types in a room and on a table we had 500 white hats and 500 black hats and asked everyone to pick the hat they should wear we would be short 500 white hats. We can’t tattoo them either. So with all the experience everyone claims to have in the woods they must have seen some illegal activity going on at one time or another.  The best bet is to report it immediately.  Get a license plate number, take some photos or video and call 1-877-927-6337  and report the incident and your location (necessary as Wharton is a large area).  Even if they cannot get there in time to stop the problem there is a record of that call and the location can be monitored in the future.  Another alternative is to gather the information and file a complaint against the person doing the damage in the township in which it is occurring.  It is not an easy process but it can be, and has been, done, if you are concerned enough you will make the effort to do so yourself.

They are cutting down trees to block off areas – Yes, a small amount of trees have been cut to block areas, it is standard forestry practice for areas where there is no other choice.  Also, there has been some suggestions that the volunteer group that helps Wharton State Forest cut trees down.  Not true! I started the early initiative for volunteers and was present for every volunteer day but one (when trails were remarked for hiking) and no volunteer cut down a tree nor even touched a chain saw.

What to do?  There several areas that just about everyone can agree on.

  1. The forest has been abused and is in need of serious repair.
  2. Not everyone using the forest is creating the problems.
  3. There are currently all the laws needed to prosecute abusers.
  4. The forest is not adequately patrolled by the NJ Park Police.

Hopefully the volunteer group will be able to address  #1 where possible.  So others are invited to apply to be part of the volunteer group. # 2 and #3 watch for and report problems as outlined above. #4 present your proposal to the New Jersey Park Police on how they can more adequately protect our forest.

Once the M.A.P. becomes part of the landscape in Wharton I hope similar plans will be put in place with all of our public lands.

Someone once said if you are not part of the solution you are part of the problem.  Or as I would say – :show me your plan!” (about the same as “show me the money”).

If you are not willing to sacrifice a little of your privileged use of our State Forest then you are SELFISH.

 

 

10 thoughts on “Wharton M.A.P.

  1. I thought I right! you do have it all wrong. If you want to help you are invited to volunteer some of your services, like many of us do, and commit some of your own funds, like many of us do, to correct the problems.

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  2. Al, I’m not the one with a non profit organization whose mission is the preservation of the forest…or does the PPA only expend money on lobbying the state? Your side has the fundraising mechanisms in place what are you using all that money for? Man did far more damage to the pine barrens in the 19th century then it is doing now and the forest bounced back fine, I think you are confusing aesthetics with truly damaging environmental impact.

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  3. None of these issues are new! They are just now at the point of major destruction. You find the money and many things can be done to protect areas. There is your challenge – find money for forest protection.

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  4. You just don’t get it, and that’s ok. Try comparing aerial photography from the past to current satellite imagery. The road on Jemima Mount has been there a long time. A lot of the trails you want to close to motorized access have been there for decades. This is not a new issue, stop sensationalizing it into some new evil that must be squashed.

    As Far as Jemima mount goes they need to install wood guardrails like they did on Apple pie hill if they want to keep people off. Instead of widespread closure and finger pointing, try working towards targeted solutions to the individual problem areas. There is no blanket solution.

    http://maps.njpinebarrens.com/#lat=39.71184788740913&lng=-74.61772877376558&z=17&type=nj1995&gpx=

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  5. Thank you for your well presented explanation of what is going on in Wharton. Most people who respond here are clearly the ones doing the damage and just blindly deny anything is going on.

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  6. Substantial damage is absolutely being caused by motorized vehicles in Wharton State Forest. The damage is in no way “minuscule”. Anyone who spends time in the forest has observed the damage first hand. All well informed parties on both sides of this issue understand and agree on this fact. The only discussion should be about the best way to address this widespread, ongoing damage. Damage to a complex ecosystem like Wharton, cannot be measured only in terms of the amount or size of “mud holes” in a road. The damage caused by this type of abuse is measured by utilizing many factors including but not limited to, forest fragmentation, ground water pollution, stream pollution, destruction of vernal pools (yes, many of those so called “mud holes” are actually vernal pools where many amphibians breed) and the presence of endangered or threatened species in an area.

    As for damage by motorcycles, that too can be found in many locations throughout Wharton. Evidence of motorcycle damage can be found by walking down just about any fire cut or small hiking trail. Additionally, for some reason, some motorcyclists feel the need to create new trails directly through the forest, causing damage as they go. It only takes a few motorcycles to create a trail through the woods, that is then, it seems, irresistible to other riders. This activity is obviously illegal, but takes place on a regular basis nonetheless.

    The damage that exists in Wharton today, did not exist 15 or so years ago. It seems that the abuse, and the damage created thereby, has accelerated in recent years and has now become a true ecological threat to the forest. The restriction of motorized vehicles, through the implementation of the MAP, is really the only way to combat this threat. If motorized access is not limited, the damage will only continue to worsen and eventually become irreversible in many areas.

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  7. I have some big problems with the information that is regularly represented as “facts” in all of these posts, and also in presentations given by Rob Auermuller:

    -First, you consistently cherry-pick a minuscule amount or land damaged by a select few illegal drivers. The land-damage represents perhaps less then 1/2 of 1 percent of the land and does not represent the “entire forest” nor does it represent any of the responsible users of the forest who this MAP plan will target.

    -If there are concerns about Emergency response within the forest, then do not CUT LIVE TREES and block roads and trails. Township EMT’s and Fire Departments have already stated that was a really bad idea. At every township meeting I have attended, these first reponders have ALL STATED they WERE NEVER CONSULTED about this plan. Muddy roads can be passable, but blocking roads and trails with dozens of large trees endangers lives.

    -When roads are never or rarely maintained they become damaged no matter the user. Same goes for paved public roads. Potholes happen which is why there are road crews to maintain. Some roads have been roads since the days or horse and buggy and also deteriorated unless maintained.

    Regarding actual damage and the cost in Money- Animals- Plants- where is this information. Not a single fact here about this just assumptions and allegations, and of course blame without knowledge.

    What is also missing is info on any clean-up efforts by these “volunteers” to help with the forest, other than CUTTING DOWN LIVE TREES and Endangering the lives of first responders. These volunteers have caused enough damage and should be prosecuted for their actions, along with these illegal off roaders you feature in your video

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  8. You sir do not know what your talking about I would like to meet with you so you can show
    Me the damage being done by motorcycles. Because I don’t believe there is any. And please don’t show me four foot hole dug up by jeeps I want too see motorcycle damage.

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