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Park Police Need Tools to Combat ORV Abuse

By | December 21st, 2016

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In a recent and revealing video, ORV drivers demonstrate the ineffectiveness of the current approach of management in Wharton State Forest. Because of political pressure on the DEP, the dedicated and heroic Park Police are deprived of the tools they need to succeed in their mission of natural resources protection. NJDEP, in their refusal to designate official routes of the State Forest, is placing an impossible burden of policing an unenforceable spaghetti network of unmanaged routes on the understaffed and often under-gunned(in terms of tools and vehicles) Park Police. The State of New Jersey needs to do a much better job in supporting these stewards of our public land. Without the needed tools and personnel, these modern day rangers are being deprived of succeeding in their mission of public lands protection.

In the video below, you will see an organized group of off-road vehicle drivers abusing public roadways, eroding historic sites, damaging forest infrastructure, and creating new “roads” by driving straight into the forest over pristine areas, These individuals went completely unopposed in their day-long tour of destruction and this has been happening far too often on our public lands.

In a second video, a concerned citizen recorded another group of “mudders” in the Great Swamp of Wharton State Forest, also a Natural Heritage Priority Site for globally rare species. The wetlands in this video were protected by the original Motorized Access Plan by Parks and Forestry, but was forced open to motor vehicles by the NJDEP. Park Police simply do not have the equipment to patrol this area and so it has been left to fend for itself. With a new map, unpatrolled habitat like this could be protected from further damage by vehicle barriers and focused monitoring.

In a third unfortunate recording, individuals filmed themselves driving into the Batsto River and other environmentally sensitive areas as well as abusing the forest roads. After reporting this recording to Park Police and NJDEP, we were told that the individuals were given a warning after their vehicles were observed by Park Police covered in mud. Unfortunately, because of the spaghetti network of roads, it is very unlikely they will be caught in the act and suffer a serious fine. A warning will not prevent them from continuing this type of behavior and damage. We were told the video itself would not be sufficient evidence to make a successful prosecution. Clearly, when our legal system is unable to prevail, we need stronger and better management to protect our natural resources.

In a fourth video, individuals calling themselves the “Shutdown Squad X” film themselves abusing our forest infrastructure while consuming alcohol and vandalizing a historic building within the State Forest. When groups of individuals are able to maruade through our public lands for hours on end without consequence, it is a clear sign that the NJDEP has not brought sufficient resources and tools to the issue. We must now advocate to the Pinelands Commission to enact these management tools in order to physically protect habitat and to give our hardworking Park Police a chance to succeed in their mission

Please join us on January 27th at 9:30am and tell the Pinelands Commission that an official map of Forest routes will give our understaffed and under-resourced law enforcement officers a chance to prevail against this abuse.

 

Pinelands Commission

15 Springfield Rd. Pemberton, NJ

08068

4 Responses to “Park Police Need Tools to Combat ORV Abuse”

  1. Ellen Laxton-Donnelly says:

    I have just viewed the video on your site and I am now sick to my stomach! Really. How dare they destroy my woods. My world. My father taught me conservation when it was’nt even vogue.yes he was a hunter. We ate everything he brought home and were darn glad to have it.My roots are here. My history,I grew up on the Beck books. then any book I could get my hands on about the pine barrens.My best friend lived in Chatsworth for gosh sake.

  2. Jason Howell says:

    Hi Albert, I appreciate your comment and your long public service. I encourage you to reach out to Park Police officers next time you are in Wharton. When this problem largely began in the early 2000s, there were four rangers on patrol at any given time in the State Forest and vast areas were being already being severely degraded. Baltimore Sun Article From 2001 http://tinyurl.com/h5yszr7 Now, because of budget cuts, there are only 2 to 3 officers on patrol at any given time for the same land area and Park Police have to work overtime to make up for the shortfall. In addition to inadequate staffing levels, NJSPP at Wharton has not been provided with all the tools they need for this job. They need equipment such as, all-terrain vehicles, surplus trucks for when additional officers are allocated for holidays, and an official map of the forest which would specify permitted motorized routes for all users. There are over 500 miles of paths in the State Forest that are being used by vehicles today, equivalent to the distance between Atsion Ranger Office and Bar Harbour Maine – an impossible mileage for that small of a force to patrol effectively during a shift. Many of these routes are impassable to police vehicles and as such are not patrolled. We chose our battles based on both real and potential threat to natural resources and the evidence is clear that inaction on this issue is causing great damage to once pristine habitat.

  3. Albert Waldron says:

    Pinelands Preservation Alliance, Thank you for your efforts to fight to keep our natural resources from industrialization and pollution. With South Jersey Gas trying to run a dangerous pipeline through protected Pinelands and the American Water Company trying to privatize access to the Kirkwood – Cohansey Aquifer via the Atlantic City Municipal Utilities Authority and State takeover of Atlantic City, you have your work cut-out for you. Fighting our current politicians in Trenton and George Norcross will take millions of dollars and alot of public support from those who live, work and play in the Pinelands. Without that public support, you will certainly lose your battles. I don’t off-road anything that doesn’t involve a boat and fishing pole. I’m not ignorant or arrogant enough to hold any grudge against those who do. I’m intelligent enough to see, however, that you don’t need to make enemies of the people you’re picking a fight with here. I’m a retired NJ State Trooper who’s worked in South Jersey for over 35 years. Here’s what I do know: 1) Park Police are not overwhelmed and perform their jobs professionally every single day. 2) Park Police are not legally permitted to pursue any off-road vehicle to enforce any laws or ordinances as per Attorney General Directive. 3) ATV’s, off-road trucks and dirt bikes riding in the Pinelands is a harmless part of South Jersey culture that’s been going on for generations. 4) Most Park Police understand that their job is to work for the people who own and use the Pinelands (ALL citizens of New Jersey), this is not some type of Police State where everyone’s activities are monitored and controlled by government. The person who wrote this article sounds like a “Wannabee” Cop. Fortunately for us all…they aren’t one. As soon as the Pinelands Preservation Alliance begins to alienate the people using the Pinelands, their support for much greater threats will dwindle. Without public support, you are nothing. Don’t let a few “Wannabees” render your organization useless. Pick your battles. The water and resource will soon be taken away from us all if your don’t.

  4. There is no clearer way to show and explain this issue. This type of activity goes on day and night, especially on weekends, and as you can see from the videos there is no stopping where they tread. Over the decades the Pinelands, Wharton especially, have become a motorsports arcade for these off-roaders. They take to the woods in Jeeps, ATVs and dirt bikes, it is like the wild west out there sometimes. Much of this culture has been fostered by the very authorities that should be preventing it because they issue appx. 20 permits per year for off-roading events, most of them for dirt bike enduros. It all sounds so innocent that they have been authorized to take part in these events but what no one deals with is the participates come back week after week, month after month, year after year to run the same routes as these events use, and they do it unsupervised. No wonder the Park Police can’t do their job – THEY ARE OVERWHELMED. No longer permitting off-roading events will immediately help curb this culture of destruction. Tell the Pinelands Commission no only to develop a map to designate drivable and undrivable regions of Wharton (just the start of what truly needs to be done) but to stop issuing off-roading event permits.

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