Pinelands Corner 2-8-19: ORV Damage

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.

ORV damage in pinelands region.
Study Findings

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.

Tire Tracks on sand dune formed by glacial wind
ORV Damage

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.

Tracks in an intermittent pond at Wharton

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
Wharton SF

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.

Public Commentary

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 Meeting

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.

11 comments on “Pinelands Corner 2-8-19: ORV Damage

  1. Dave Demsey says:

    Of course , not one mention of the before of after pictures that I’m providing the commission of ponds that are self healing in the past 2.5 years. Not one mention of Jemima Mt. , which had a gate put up which now has young pines growing I. The middle
    Of which was once a highly traveled dirt trail. Not one mention of the decreased trash found within Wharton State Forest. Not one mention of how they found the enduro community to be 0 harm to these ponds. One sided propaganda to its fullest! Thanks for being a fair news source!

  2. Anonymous says:

    I strongly encourage you to go out on a trip with an ORV group not your buddy with a 2wd pick up that says it can go anywhere but an actual group. You would then see the amount of care about the land in it’s current state and preservation of such lands for generations to come. Also please realize nature damages itself constantly and may just be ORVs have accelerated the process with no intention of doing so

  3. Robert Crotchfelt says:

    Both the ORV and Enduro communities are full of great people who care about the pinelands, just as much as anyone else. With the pinelands being compromised of over 1 million acres and making up roughly 20% of the state, there should be no problem letting everyone responsibly enjoy the area. To blame the ORV and Enduro community for trash being in the area is a childish ploy to use outrage over a frustrating problem, to advance a specific agenda. The ORV community is leading the way in REMOVING trash by organizing group efforts and constantly educating the community to be respectful of the pines.

    There are back roads in my town with tons of trash littered on the road edges. Should we close those roads to cars or find a way to clean it up and do better in the future?

  4. Martin says:

    There are other considerations beyond the obvious ecosystem damage. These areas are preserved for the enjoyment of everyone. People do not go hiking to see unsightly ORV tracks everywhere or to have the serenity they seek in nature interrupted by roaring engines and exhaust. These “yahoos” need to seek their kicks elsewhere, preferably on private land.

    1. EJ Smith says:

      It’s near impossible to go hiking in the Pinelands without witnessing unsightly damage due to ATV’s and that is reprehensible. These monstrous vehicles damage and erode the forest roads causing huge ponds- they go beyond pot holes that make it impossible to enjoy hiking or anything else. It’s not contained; illegal roads and illegal off-roading is extremely widespread in the Pinelands. It is very sad that the Pinelands are so poorly managed that it takes environmental organizations to rally for it because the Pinelands Commission is now corrupt with right-winged allies that only care about industry and myopic, corporate goals. It is about time the Pinelands Commission starts making decisions to support the future of the Pinelands again- not fossil fuel companies and noisy, offensive vehicles.

  5. A Pine Barrens Treefrog says:

    The great compromise of the Pinelands Act and the Pinelands Commission(and Comprehensive Management Plan) allowed for development to occur for economic and social purposes while preserving the most important places for wildlife and low-impact recreation. What could not have been known at that time is that the activity of off-road driving would come to be the most substantial risk to rare habitats, plants, and wildlife in the places that were designated to be protected forever.

    What is lost on many people on the periphery of this issues is that this is not one or two, or three, or a dozen, or two dozen places that are being damaged, it is hundreds, and there is no end in sight. We aren’t at the end of this, we are at the beginning. The more off-roaders using the Pinelands, the worse the impacts will be to the beauty of the place, the health of the environment, and the enjoyment of the Pines for the people. We need to stop this now and the best way to do it is to keep vehicles on maintained paths, put up barricades and blockades in sensitive areas, and only allow motorized travel on sand paths that can be maintained. These trails were built for wagons and people walking – not for groups of heavily modified 4×4 vehicles who are intent on showing off the machines they purchased to their buddies. We need to educate those who will hear it, increase the chance of catching and fining those who won’t hear it, and put up barriers at the places that most need it.

  6. Samuel Ross says:

    I’ve never heard of a pond damaging itself with tire tracks and ripping up the topsoil that these endangered species depend on to survive….. that one is new to me.

    I’m an avid enthusiast for our rights to enjoy our lands, but we must do so responsibly. If it was being done responsibly than it wouldn’t be an issue, but these roads are becoming impassable and the ruts are making it near impossible to maintain these roads for the average person to enjoy it.

    So many roads we used to be able to drive down now have huge lakes in the middle of them. This is not natural damages…..


      The roads are not cared for anymore, the poor condition is from 20 + years of neglect. some of the farmers condition the roads they use to travel from the cranberry bogs to ocean spray in chatsworth, other than that I have seen no road leveling being done.


    I am looking at the one picture say’s tracks in an intermittent pond at Wharton, It is a road with puddles in it now being called a pond? Call it what it is and do not make it out to be something else.

  8. Life Long Piney says:

    Several issues here. The Pineland’s CMP, when originally developed included mention of 600+ miles of single-track trail, used by the Enduro Club’s. It recognized the responsible use and positive impact of not just providing opportunities for recreation, but working with a long held sport that provides a lot education through their clubs to their membership & attendees. A lot of State Forest dirt roads are no longer maintained like they were decades ago due to budget issues. That’s why more then a few can become hard to travel. Vehicles with larger tires disperse their weight upon their contact patch, creating a lighter foot print then say a vehicle of the same weight on a narrower tire. Are there bad-apples? Of course, every user group has them. The organized motorized groups are not the issue, in fact, many of them are responsible for going out of their way, spending their own time and supplies to clean it up. I see plenty of trash along the water ways and on hiking trails I frequent as well. Organized groups are stake holders, they have a vested interest in protecting the land and their access to enjoy it. They educate others on the benefits as well and often self police. It’s those out-of-fringe, unaffiliated, both passive & not, that are the bulk of the issue, but still no larger an issue then development. You can’t get back what’s been paved over.

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