We’d like to explain why the Pinelands Preservation Alliance supports the Motorized Access Plan (MAP), with the understanding that there is plenty of room for honest disagreement. For years, PPA has called for a set of actions to address what we see as a real crisis in the State Forest: the destruction being caused by illegal and irresponsible “mudding” and ATV use and dumping. The MAP actually reiterates rules that have been in place for many years, but haven’t been enforced. It leaves all public rights of way open for motorized vehicles, with the exception of a few that are currently too dangerous but will be opened when (and if) repaired. The “roads” the MAP closes to trucks, cars and motorcycles are all unofficial roads that have been created by a variety of people over a long range of time. The MAP will make it possible for the State to protect the forest from illegal activities and to repair the public roads within Wharton State Forest.
Some key facts about the MAP that guide our decision are these:
• More than 220 miles of sand roads are open to the public for driving. All of Wharton State Forest is within one mile or less of these public sand roads or paved public roads. Check the maps: it’s true.
• The liveries, including Pinelands Adventures and Micks and Bel Haven, as well as all other groups like PPA, are subject to the MAP just like the general public. There are no special deals for or against the groups supporting or opposing the MAP. PPA doesn’t get to charge people so they can go places in the woods. Like the other liveries, Adventures charges people for the livery service and boat rentals, not for access, because access is free to everyone (except the liveries, which pay the state for permits to the same places that are free to the public).
• The Forest Fire Service strongly supports the MAP because it will keep the fire fighting roads it needs open and safe, whereas today many of those roads have become impassable and dangerous due to “mudding” by trucks and jeeps.
• The only special accommodation in the MAP is for those with physical disabilities who cannot walk to their special places. The DEP states it will provide special permits to those with disabilities.
The MAP will only work if it is enforced by the State Park Police. Some people are justly worried that the people doing harm will ignore the rules and continue to use the informal sand roads, while law-abiding citizens will be the only ones excluded from driving on roads they have used for many years. The Department of Environmental Protection states that the Park Police will step up its game and make the MAP work. We will be watching to hold the State to that commitment.
NJ Department of Environmental Protection FAQs about the Wharton State Forest MAP:
More information about PPA’s work on Off-Road Vehicles: