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 jason@pinelandsalliance.org

 

Destruction Site – Whitesbog Area – Brendan Byrne State Forest

Historic Whitesbog Area Being Destroyed 

Appx. 117 acres of wetlands destroyed

Location: Browns Mills, Burlington Country, Brendan Byrne State Forest

GPS location:   East end: 39.963704/-74.529273

West end: 39.962333/-74.516465

 

Lou’s Lake

Local name: For this image “Lou’s Lake”

Type of Area: Open wetlands/forest wetlands/vernal pool

What is going on at this site: The mudders have the audacity to name a destroyed wetlands after themselves, the sign in the background of the above images says “Lou’s Lake”. Also, they have provided all their mudder friends with a place to dispose of their trash (usually beer cans – cheap beer too). They should provide equipment for restoration of this vernal pool instead of a trash receptacle! This site was pointed out to me by my friends Jason Howell and Emile DiVito.  All images were provide by Jason Howell.  As you can see in the Google Earth shot above this area is laced with multiple roadways through a sensitive wetlands area.  The fact that this encompasses appx. 117 acres is not surprising as there are many areas in the Pine Barrens destroyed by mudders that can range from 25 acres and up.  The images below are explanation enough about what is going on here.  Also, at the end of this post is a video shot while tracking a mudder and calling into the DEP hotline 877-927-6337.  This is something we can all do, I have done it several times in the past.  If you see any illegal off-roading going on or trash dumped in the woods, anywhere in New Jersey, call the above number and report it.

The DEP and Pinelands Commission have made very little effort to correct this problem but have it all tied up in a neat bureaucratic package right now.  By the time they make up their minds on a course of action our forest will have been destroyed by 4 x 4 Jeep types, dirt bikes or ATV’s (which are illegal to operate on all public lands in NJ). This is happening before their very eyes, day by day, minute by minute!

The loudly shouting masses trying to hold off managing our public lands with motorized access plans are the very people who are creating the problems.  Look at the images below and you can see that roadways are cut by 4 x 4 vehicles, they are not authorized roadways.  People drive on them all the time and think it is okay because the road is there, but the road is illegally forged through the wetlands.   These problems are not being caused by just “renegades in the night” or “miss guided youth” it is an entire community that includes young and old, male and female, from all walks of life.

What is there: This is prime habitat for all Pinelands flora and fauna.

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The video below is a great example of reporting the problems we all see when we are enjoying the forest.  Please, if you see something like this going on please report it to 1-877-927-6337

 

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.

 

 

Destruction Sites – Greenwood Wildlife Management Area Rt. 72 Burlington County

“Greenwood WMA” – Rt. 72 –  Burlington County

About this blog: 

WMA stands for Wildlife Management Area, at this site, which I will call the “Staging Site”, WMA should stand for Wild Maniacs Area!

Several months ago I started exploring areas within Greenwood Wildlife Manage Area and was amazed at what I saw.  This area, in particular, has one of the most astounding locations of trash in the Pine Barrens that I have seen in a long time.

Location 39.838067/-74.437075 is located .8 miles off of Route 72 in Burlington County, the road on Google earth is called Laurie’s Rd.

On two occasions when visiting this site I found trailers parked in the area with Pennsylvania registrations, one had a dirt bike and an ATV, neither registered in PA or NJ. The one with the machines on it was being searched for by two fellows from Philadelphia.  I ran into a women on Laurie’s Rd who told me she was waiting for her boyfriend and brother who were looking for the trailer they left there the day before.  She was about 100 yards from the entrance to the gravel pit. IMG_0871 IMG_0863

The last occasion was on a Tuesday afternoon when myself and Ryan Rebozo from PPA were surveying the area.  This trailer was empty and all seven riders came barreling down Laurie’s Rd from the direction of Hidden Lakes (subject of another blog). I stopped the first adult rider, there were two adults and 5 kids, and asked if he realized that ATVs were illegal to operate on NJ public lands.  His answer -“yes, so what?” – and off he sped. Here is a video of his trailer.

This area is a small gravel pit that appears to be used to park their trailers and trucks and then take off for the hills (what hills?) and ride and ride some more.  Absolutely no one using this area ever had a trash receptacle in their home, you would think they would have learned how to use one if they had.  Here every conceivable item they don’t have a use for is tossed on the ground.  Every square foot of the margins of this place is a trash heap.  Some of the items found there are matching pairs of boots, shoes and sneakers, clothing of all sorts, beer cans, whiskey bottles, beer cartons, plastic bags, feminine  hygiene items,  condoms, food wrappers, bags of household trash, oil and transmission fluid cans – the list could go on and on.

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Of course there is the usual campfire and cut down trees to fuel it. What is most amazing that is this obviously goes on, unabated day and night during the weekends.  There is a very minor road leading into the place and in one swoop the entire place could be locked down and blockaded.

Here is some more video I shoot, trash and more trash.  Please read below the videos for my request for a guest blogger. Still no takers.

This is a test to see if anyone out there has read this far!!!!!   If anyone who enjoys this type of activity would like to guest blog a post on this site please forward a Word Document to Albert@pinelandsimagery.com, no more than 500 words, and some good jpeg images that show how much you enjoy this activity.  Your text should explain the reason you enjoy running around in your vehicles on ground that is nearly flat and obviously not at all challenging to even a Subaru Forester, and also why you believe its okay environmentally to do so.

Special Post

“A Special Post”

About this blog: Not only are the Pine Barrens under siege by the off-road vehicle devastation it is being threatened in many other ways as well.  A recently released on- line investigative article by The Asbury Park Press, wonderfully written by Todd Bates and graphically captured in photographs and film by Tom Spader is a most read for anyone concerned with not only this environment but any environment.  It is very telling and a warning to us all that we have to stay vigilant if we want to protect our natural heritage. It is possible the print article with be in this Sunday’s edition of the APP.

Please follow this link and feel free to come back and comment here – Good reading!:

http://www.app.com/longform/news/premium/2015/06/22/new-jersey-pinelands-stress/28894731/

Albert

Destruction Sites – “1/4 Mile” An Expanded View

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-

  1. eat a bowl of dicks
  2. drink bleach
  3. wash your mouth out with buckshot
  4. 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”

You can reply to this comment by visiting the comments page.

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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!!!!

You can reply back by visiting the comments page.

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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.

Little 1/4 Mile

Little 1/4 Mile

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?

Opinion

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.

Destruction Sites – “A Larger View”

“A Larger View” – Much of the Northern Pinelands National Reserve

About this blog: After my last post I thought it best to take a larger view of the areas being destroyed by off-road vehicle enthusiast.  The Google Earth map view below is from Rt. 37 to Rt. 70 to Rt. 206 and from there to Rt. 30 then on to the Garden State Parkway.  All of the red lines and circles are clearly defined areas that are currently being used and destroyed by the off-roaders who enjoy destroying our public lands. I have personally visited many of these sites, but not all.  I have not spent a lot of time in the Southern sections of the Pinelands but believe me when I say the destruction there is just a bad as what you are seeing in the Google Earth image below.

Along with this post I have a images of the signs that are so ubiquitous in our state forest that you would have to be blind to miss them.  Under the sign image I will outline what is not legal in the state forest.

The video I have posted is from the Greenwood Wildlife Management Area.  One video is of a gate that was constructed from “I” beams and completely destroyed by people wanting motorized sport access to the area.  The other video is of vast grasslands that are currently being used as mudding arena. This was once used to release quail into the wildlife management area, thus the reason for the gate.

A vast area of the Pinelands being destroyed

A vast area of the Pinelands being destroyed

Rules posted in our state forest

Rules posted in our state forest

In our State Forest it is illegal to:

Litter or dump trash – residential or commercial (this is readily and routinely done)

Consume alcohol (every site that I have visited is drowning in beer cans and bottles.  It is probably the number one litter item in the Pinelands.  We have laws that forbid open containers of alcohol while driving so they are discarded into the forest)

Burn open fires (again, almost every site I have visited has the remains of a bonfire or campfire that are present even in the season when everyone is warned not to burn any fires in the forest)

Cut down trees or damage plant life (trees are routinely chopped down for use as firewood)

Abuse the environment (it goes without say that everything thing these people do is destructive to the environment)

Target Practice (many of the sites have shotgun shells and .22 casing at the locations)

Swimming only in unauthorized areas

All motor vehicles must be properly registered, insured. (many are not, especially dirt bikes and ATVs)

All motor vehicles must operate only on established roads and parking lots.

Operation of ATV, Trail Bikes, and off-road vehicles is prohibited. (you can see these type of vehicles in use daily)

Travel on dirt and gravel and sand roads is limited to 20 MPH. (dirt bikes have only one speed – FAST)

The current N.J. Motor Vehicle Code reads:

Dirt Bikes and ATVs are prohibited in State Forest

Here is some recently shot video that was taken in Greenwood Wildlife Management Area:

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