Do Our Land Stewards Have Their Heads Buried in the Sand?

Do Our Land Stewards Have They Heads Buried in the Sand?

For at least the last decade, Division of Parks and Forestry, seemly, have been unable to protect the public lands within their charge. The excuses are many and reality seems to be a total lack of concern for the environment. There have been complaints made daily about the abuse Pinelands State Forest are receiving from off-road vehicle (ORV) use. There have been multiple newspaper articles, user group meetings, editorials, videos published on YouTube and downright anger on the part of the low impact recreation community, that being  hikers, birders, hunters, kayakers, equestrians about the abuse the forest and these users are taking from ORV traffic and events. Yet nothing has been done to stop the abuse. The latest straw is the Pinelands Commission’s unanimous vote to designate current topographic maps as the official road use map for Wharton State Forest………Parks and Forestry has done nothing to institute this ruling, ignoring the commission in charge of oversite our Pinelands National Reserve.

By following this blog you are well aware of the damage being done on a routine bas and some attempts to measures used to curtail it: like the Wharton Map plan that was scrapped once it was put into place, in addition to ridiculously confusing warning signs posted at many entries points of Wharton State Forest , beefing up of the Park Police in Wharton, Identifying over 200 damaged sites in Wharton alone by the Pinelands Commission staff and Pinelands Preservation Alliance, clean up and blockading of ORV destroyed areas by volunteers, volunteer watch groups to report abusing being done in real time, reporting the killing or injury of endangered wildlife and identifying their habitat, the list goes on. Still, the ORV crowd roars in and through the Pinelands like a wild west show. They are like the flock of geese that winter on your favorite lake, they may look good but they cause nothing but bacterial decay in the end.

There is a group of volunteers, about 400+ strong, who have at various times come to the rescue of our State Parks and Wildlife Management Areas. In the past this group of forest lovers has removed tons and tons of trash and debris from public lands, blockaded areas that were being damaged on private and public lands, planted trees to replace a grove of cedar trees that was destroyed by ORV usage, and rebuilt snake habitat. Now the volunteer group would like to start carrying out the mandate put in place with the map that the Pinelands Commission instituted. However Parks and Forestry do not seem interested in utilizing the volunteers’ services.

Below is a list of areas that need attention immediately to curtail ORV damage. A lot of the damage you are seeing in these videos that came from YouTube is currently being done even after the steps taken by the DEP. It only goes to show  that a slight increase of the Park Police and new signs will not stop this damage from happening. The two most important steps the DEP can take to stop this ravaging is:

  1. Stop cultivating a culture of persons who believe that Pinelands is just barren land by continuing to issue permits for off road events.
  2. Institute the map set by the Pinelands Commission. It will stop ORV traffic from going anywhere but on the designated roads and give law enforcement the tool they need to summon people who are not obeying the map. This is not all that difficult so what is the hold up?????

Here is a list projects that need to get started right away before it is too late to have the areas recover from the ORV traffic.

1St Beach on the Mullica River. From the video below you can see the damage that has been and continues to be done in the face of the new signs and rules posted. This once was a nice little beach from where you could watch the river, have the kids play, or even take a dip during the heat of the day. Now you take your life into your hands being there when someone wants to run their monster truck through sand. It needs to be blocked off and heavily signed to prevent continue damage. It was not preserved to run trucks and dirt bikes through it.

Cherry Hill Rd just off of Rt. 206. You can see from the video that this is a long stretch of road that is so overrun that its only useable by ORVs now. It is not a road according to the PC map. Most of the area was a push line for a fire break that has been turned into and ORV playground. Paralleling the road are some very valuable wetlands that are also be intruded upon. This location needs to be blockaded to limit access to only foot traffic, equestrians or bicycle.

Maple Island Road – Waterford Twp. This is relatively new destruction of a typical intermittent pond, that is breeding grounds for all sorts of wetlands creatures, some of them very rare, many rare and endangered plants find their home here as well. This needs to be barricaded to stop further destruction.

Quaker Bridge Area. You can see by the video that this has become a huge sand pile because ORV traffic likes to run in and around the area. This is thought to be an historic site, the location of the taverns and hotels that bordered the Batsto River at Quaker Bridge in the 1800’s. This area needs barricading to allow it grow in naturally and keep the ORV traffic off.

Atsion Pond Area. Another area with a road not on the map and it should be closed down. The wetlands here are being overrun by ORVs.

Remember the Pinelands Commission staff and PPA jointly identified well over 200 distrubed areas in Wharton State Forest alone. The rest of the Pinelands is just as bad but Wharton was chosen to be the template for this endeavor to clean up, restore and blockade ORV damaged areas all over our Pinelands National Reserve. At the pace of the DEP and Parks and Forestry are going it will never get off the ground….again! Perhaps the new administration will put knowledgeable people in the DEP and Parks and Forestry , people who love nature, understand the value of this resource, believe in science and just plain give a damn. You can’t manage hundreds of thousands of acres within our public lands without good personnel and budget. We’ll see.

If you would like to be part of a volunteer group that is working hard to keep our forest clean and free from ORV usage contact Jason Howell at


7 thoughts on “Do Our Land Stewards Have Their Heads Buried in the Sand?

  1. There are very few legal orv parks such as Rausch Creek. It’s a pay to ride park privately owned and maintained. The area is a great place to off road, rocks, steep climbs, mud, etc.. this area is in abandoned coal strip mine so the area is already ecologically denuded so it makes sense. It’s located in Tremont, PA. I understand, the pines are closer to population centers so, yes we need to designate an area, pay to ride park, monies to maintain park itself and to provide more monitoring of ecologically sensitive areas. The problem is the area is do sparsely populated, more private forest management owners would help steward the lands, monitor for illegal activity, rather than land grab of the government, then no money to actually preserve it.


  2. In response to part of Kelly Bless… “road use in the pines by permit only…and permits limited to people who cannot physically enjoy them any other way.”

    I disagree. There are remote areas that can only be accessed by 4WD on a legal road. Batsto-Fireline Road for instance. Hiking in to photograph a sunset or sunrise would be impossible, unless you are a 24 year old super human and leave at 11 PM to get a AM sunrise.

    I am not a “mudder”, or an ATV user. I just simply want to photograph the beauty of pine barrens as Mr. Horner has done for many years. In his SUV. Legally, without destroying spungs, or driving through rivers.

    The term off-road has become a confusing term. It is legal to drive on the roads identified by the Pinelands Commission. It is illegal to drive off of those roads. Or to drive on those roads using an ATV at any time.

    I do agree that law enforcement is the only solution. But that requires a huge budget, much larger than the Park Police currently have. Shutting down the forest will of course deter only the good citizens and leave Wharton and the Pine Barrens to the people that do not care about the rules. With no one to catch them, or arrest them.

    A quick aside to Mr. Horner. I admire your photography, but I recognize that you could have only obtained those images by driving into the forest. Legally of course.

    Using a drone in Wharton is illegal. I assume that you obtained a permit or waiver for each use of your aerial photography?


  3. you’re 110% right. however… matter how much signage is put up, however many barricades are put in place…however many of these people are busted, and their orvs confiscated, no matter how much you try to educate them as to the damage they do….they will persist. they believe that it is their “right” to destroy because this is their “recreation”. they get really rabid and nasty about it. you see….they trespass and damage because the actual orv parks have RULES. nasty rules like insurance requirements, safety gear, no alcohol, no parties, no night riding. no “mudding” and FEES….you have to pay to enter. a lot of them aren’t even from new jersey. they’re coming in from other states that DO enforce the rules. then you have the local ones who cry that their taxes maintain the land so they have a “right” to destroy the land..the plants..the animals…..they also claim it keeps their kids from doing drugs….yeah right. ignore some laws and you teach them to ignore them all.

    the solution is rather draconian. but after dealing with them for many years it’s the only one i can see. ban them completely. no quads. no dirt bikes. no more modified jeeps and trucks. no more “road rallies” anywhere but legal orv parks. road use in the pines by permit only…and permits limited to people who cannot physically enjoy them any other way. unmodified suvs that cannot offroad only. entries and fire roads gated and manned 24/7. all those illegal roads bulldozed shut at the entrances..including every time they build a new one. fire breaks patrolled….with tow trucks on call for immediate confiscation of any vehicle without a permit. increase the fines to massive to pay for all this….and with the amount of abuse that goes in that will happen, and quickly… and third offense equals jail and community service time….and that includes parents who supply their little darlings with quads and dirt bikes, and then turn a blind eye to what they’re doing with them. they should be penalized right along with their kids.

    by making stricter rules…the deaths and severe injuries might just stop too. especially if they were applied to ALL state, county, and local lands. ocean county sheriff’s department has spent a huge amount of man hours trying to stop them from tearing up county open space areas and parks. so has local law enforcement…not to mention the state park police. it’s not just wharton under siege. it’s colliers. it’s double trouble. brendan byrne. federal pinelands reserve. allaire. it’s county open space lands. utility and railroad right of ways. commercial quarries and industrial sites. farms. local parks and preserves. this problem is a lot bigger than just wharton. even the parkway gets routinely invaded. so does joint base and earle. even a superfund site. as an example of how blatant they are…a teen was killed this summer trying to break down the gate at a local quarry with his quad….he and his friends felt that the quarry owners had no right to keep them out!

    private property owners need to be encouraged and helped to prosecute, too. a farmer who gets his crops or pastures torn up does not have the time or money to sit in court. neither do homeowners whose property sits at the edge of these areas. local industries and quarries are spending thousands too. perhaps a legal pro bono could be set up to help them?

    the orv community…and industry… has considerable political clout….that’s the other facet of the problem. that’s how the njdep wharton road plan got shelved. they constantly point to the state’s failure to build the orv parks they promised to justify the invasion. the people who want to protect and keep the land the way it should be have to get LOUDER and develop more political voice. they need to find out who at njdep, pinelands commission. and the state legislature are stonewalling the conservation efforts by taking “campaign contributions” and “speakers fees” and out them.


  4. This article needs to be put in the desk of the new DEP Commissioner. It identifies exactly what needs to be done and where. And, offers volunteers to help DEP and the Pinelands Commission implement their mandate.


  5. Your immediate protection areas are very much on point. I have been visiting the First Beach area since the early 1990’s and have been sickened by the ongoing destruction and abuse of this area. With its close proximity to Route 206 it is used throughout the year and has been continuously degraded. Although new “No Motorized” vehicle signs have been placed they are routinely ignored. Deep gullies have been carved into the riverbank slope, erosion and loss of flora continues to occur. With the new administration and volunteer assistance I do hope that finally it is secured via barriers and a restoration process of deadfall, clean pine barrens sand, and appropriate heath and other plants are used to restore this area. I drive all over the Pinelands but I do so legally. Stay on the sand roads. Don’t intentionally destroy or degrade the sand roads by “mudding”. If an area is posted “no motorized vehicles”…do not enter! I too hope with the new administration that additional effort will be enacted to secure, restore and possibly enhance the areas that you mentioned. Plenty of volunteer labor available.


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