The Pinelands Commission held their monthly meeting on Feb. 8th. The main topic of discussion was ORV damage in the reserve. John Bunnel presented the commission’s pond study, and he reported on wetland damage caused by off road vehicles. The study is titled “Vulnerability and Comparability of Natural and Created Wetlands”. Olivia Glen from the DEP’s department of Parks and Forestry attended.
John started his presentation by giving details about the ponds they surveyed. The study examined natural and created ponds in the pinelands region. Its should be obvious, driving through a wetlands area damages it. Although it feels like we live in a swamp sometimes, wetlands are very rare. The total area of all the ponds surveyed make up less than .3% of the area of the reserve. Ponds contain up to 180 plant species, 13 of which are protected species. Also, they contain a variety of fish, frogs, and dragonflies.
Of the thousands of ponds surveyed, almost 5% had damage done by off road vehicles. In addition to direct driving damage, they found trash left behind by the ORVers. Next, Mr. Bunnel presented a model they made that predicts which variables make a pond more vulnerable to reckless ORV damage. Access points are the main determining factor, along with vegetation and proximity to other damaged ponds. Once they determined the probability of damage, they created a risk map highlighting risk of damage.
Jeep Jamboree and other ORV events
The Pinelands Commission, strangely, approves applications to hold enduro events and recreational drives through this protected reserve. This year’s schedule follows, more events may be added at any time:
2/10/19 – 7:29 AM(?) – South Jersey Enduro Riders (SJER)
Ice Breaker Dual Sport
Brendan Byrne State Forest – Browns Mills (area), NJ
3/24/19 – 9 AM – SJER – Curly Fern – Atsion Rd., Shamong, NJ
3/31/19 – 9 AM – Meteor Motorcycle Club (MMC)
Rt. 563 Egg Harbor City, NJ
Wharton and Bass River SF
4/14/19 – 9 AM Pine Barons Enduro Riders (PBER) –
Rt. 532 Chatsworth, NJ
Wharton, Brendan Byrne SF
5/18/19 – 10 AM Motorcycle Competition Riders (MCI)
So. Main Street West Creek, NJ
10/19/19 – 10 AM (PBR) – Same location as above
10/ 27/19 – 8 AM Ocean City Competition Riders (OCCR)
Brendan Byrne State Forest
11/10/19 – 9 AM Stump Jumper Enduro – (MCI)
Main St. Barnegat, NJ
11/17/19 – 8 AM -Central Jersey Competition Riders (CJCR)
Shin Rd., Brendan Byrne SF
11/24/19 – 8 AM – Turkey Run (PBER} –
Rt. 532 Chatsworth , NJ
Wharton, Bass River SF.
In addition the annual Jeep Jamboree is held near Batsto Village in March. This California company charges attendees 275 dollars per person to drive around our protected reserve, then leaves NJ to clean up the damage. In the ultimate irony, the organizers talk about the endangered species in the region as a selling point for the drive. They say they “tread lightly”, but this many jeeps is going to cause serious ORV damage.
Members of the public commented on how the roads are so destroyed in the area that the average NJ family can’t reach the interior of the reserve. Other states in the area do not allow mudders and off-roaders to drive in their parks, so they come to NJ which for some reason allows it. At one point in time, Batsto closed down their horse drawn carriage rides because it was too damaging for the region. Yet, hundred of jeeps driving through a highly sensitive eco-system is considered acceptable use. It makes no sense.
Next month the commission will be discussing a plan to cut down a large area of trees around a fire tower. They are accepting public comment until the next meeting concerning that issue. There was a great deal of confusion at this meeting if the public was allowed to comment on the application and if it would appear in the official record. The executive director seemed reluctant to accept official comments, but several commissioners pushed her on the issue.