Loss of woodland trails infuriates off-road riders

| 09 May 2022 | 04:24

When cut-down trees suddenly blocked access to woodland trails behind the Camelot development, people who routinely rode their off-road recreational vehicles there took their anger to the internet where the topic brought much discussion. Some residents were at the May 4 West Milford Township Council meeting to express their rage. They questioned Mayor Michele Dale and the council as to why trees were removed before the people living in the adjacent development were given any opportunity for input.

A woman who lives in the Hopler Place area told the Council she learned of the issue on Facebook and she would be concerned if unexplained tree cutting took place on her block. Mentioning that the township has an ordinance that addresses rules for cutting down trees, she questioned if a permit was obtained to cut those that were taken down in the Camelot area. She said it might have been a better solution to confiscate illegal riders’ vehicles. Suggesting that the council designate an appropriate place for the riders to enjoy their recreational ATV riding, she was apparently unaware of the citizens committee that worked with the township in hopes of accomplishing this several years ago. The effort died when residents in the area of proposed park protested, not wanting it in their backyards.

Five other persons who addressed the council at their recent meeting questioned what the process was, and wondered who was in charge to make the tree cutting happen. They questioned if this was a solution to correct the problem described by officials.

Mayor Dale explained that the township was forced to take drastic action to stop the illegal off-road vehicle riding on township property. She said since the activities were taking place on municipal property it posed a significant possibility of financial liability to the township. Last year there were 134 complaints about illegal ATV activity throughout the Township of West Milford. A press release published the day after the township meeting said each of the complaints must be investigated, and that drains resources. There were 15 court summonses involving ATVs and dirt bikes issued last year. The report added that on the previous weekend, ATV vehicles were involved in a hit and run episode that involved injuries.

Several trees were taken down in order to block the area illegally used to ride ATV and dirt bikes. In the press report, township officials said they confirmed with New Jersey state officials that the action taken complies with the Green Acres regulations that govern this property.

Police said eliminating access to the off-road vehicles will prevent further environmental degradation of the area, and long-term benefits of having it reclaimed by the forest far outweigh the temporary measures that officials see as being necessary for the benefit and protection of the township and its citizens.

Earlier township attempts to keep the illegal off-road vehicles away from the property by removing ramps, blocking entrances, and increasing police patrols were said by officials to have been ineffective in solving the problem, requiring the stronger action taken by the Township.