NJ closing parts of 5 wildlife areas to prevent ATVs and swimmers

NJ closing parts of 5 wildlife areas to prevent ATVs and swimmers

New Jersey is closing sections of five wildlife management areas that have become hotspots for illegal swimming, partying and off-road vehicle driving, state environmental officials said Friday.

Starting May 25, six relatively small tracts of state-run land will be off-limits until Labor Day. Signs are posted by the state Department of Environmental Protection warning people to stay outdoors at the following locations:

  • Cedar Lake Wildlife Management Area (Monroe Township, Gloucester County): The area commonly known as the Sand Plant, which begins at the intersection of Jackson Road and West Piney Hollow Road.
  • Greenwood Forest Wildlife Management Area (Ocean County, colon) The section known as Parker’s Pit, which begins at the intersection of Route 539 and Bryant Road. Also, the section known as Clay Holes, which begins at the intersection of Lauries Road and Woodmansie Road.
  • Manantico Ponds Wildlife Management Area (Millville, Cumberland County): All Crown land plus the access road to the Route 49 area.
  • Wildcat Ridge Wildlife Management Area (Rockaway Township, Morris County): The area along Splitrock Reservoir commonly referred to as the Cliffs The trailhead is just under a mile north on the west side of Splitrock Dam and ends just past the cliffs.
  • Winslow Wildlife Management Area (Winslow, Camden County) The section commonly known as Winslow East or Hot Mix, which begins at the intersection of Route 322 and Piney Hollow Road to the intersection of Folsom Road at Route 73; then south along the Camden-Gloucester County border.

It is illegal to drive an all-terrain vehicle or dirt bike anywhere on New Jersey state land. But the ban is difficult to enforce over large swaths of open space, and hunters and hikers frequently complain that all-terrain vehicles tear up terrain, state officials said.

“These guys are just mowing habitat,” said Cody McLaughlin, a member of the NJ Outdoor Alliance, which represents hunters and anglers. “Guys are trying to hunt turkeys, and these kids are blowing ATVs.”

Haddon Township hiker Kevin C. Shelly agrees that off-road vehicles are damaging the forest. But he wonders if there’s a better way to stop ATV riders than closing sections of forest to everyone.

“They just don’t monitor these areas adequately,” Shelly said. “I think trail cameras are a pretty easy way to monitor. Seems like a good first step.

Last month, West Milford officials took the drastic step of felling dozens of trees to block trails that ATV riders dug into a patch of township-owned woods. Some residents were outraged that the township effectively blocked off public access to the land just to deter the occasional gang of ATV riders.

The DEP says it regrets the closure, but said remote locations have attracted large crowds and “illegal activity”. DEP spokeswoman Caryn Shinske said the closures were to “protect public safety and natural resources” due to “increased swimming incidents in unsupervised bodies of water and late-night parties. involving large crowds”.

Shinske said the state is not closing the five wildlife management areas, only small sections within them. Signs will be posted telling people to stay away from restricted areas, and state conservation officers will search for violators.

Trespassers face fines ranging from $50 to $1,500, depending on state law. Off-road drivers are fined $250 to $500 for a first offense, $500 to $1,000 for a second offense, and $1,000 for a third. The state can also confiscate the ATV and hold the rider responsible for damage to the forest, according to law.

Our journalism needs your support. Please subscribe today to NJ.com.Richard Cowen can be reached at rcowen@njadvancemedia.com.

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