Open Trails Update

Hello all! We hope you are enjoying this beginning of the Thanksgiving week.  We wanted to give you an update of what we have been up to and what is coming next.  While the DEP has been digesting all the input from the stakeholder and public forums, we have started to plan for our future.  We are developing a series of committees to promote and maintain responsible use of Wharton State Forest.  These committees will focus on the following areas:

  • Conservation and Responsible Use– Work with the DEP to maintain responsible use of the forest, while conserving its resources
  • Outreach/Education- Educating users on the importance of protecting our resources, increase awareness of the unique fauna, flora and history of the Pines
  • Volunteer Activities– arranging clean ups, build/maintain barriers to protect sensitive sites, maintain signage, reporting issues (fallen trees, party hot spots, etc.)

To raise funds to support the above, we will be soon launching Open Trails NJ membership.  These funds will go towards helping to preserve your responsible access to the forest and will include exclusive benefits.  Stay tuned for upcoming information on how you can become an official Open Trails NJ member or support our committees!

As far as next steps regarding the replacement of the Motorized Access Plan (M.A.P.), we are maintaining contact with the DEP as they develop their new plans.  As we have done to date, we will help assure that any new plans are fair and do not impinge on your responsible use of Wharton State Forest.  We will continue to post updates as they develop, and let you know how you can help.

Reminder of the November 5th Public Meeting on the MAP program

Just a reminder of the November 5th public meeting on the MAP program. The meeting will be held on 11/5 at 6:30 PM at Hammonton High School. We are told you are still able to register by calling 609-704-1964 or by emailing whartonmapcomments@dep.nj.gov.

Tell the DEP that you support their new commitment to engaging the public in their decision making around access to the forest. We are told each speaker will be limited to 3 mins. If you are coming in a group, please coordinate who will say what to maximize your speaking time.

Please emphasize the following points:

  • The public trust has been damaged and stakeholders must be engaged going forward
  • All USGS defined roads should remain open unless they meet objective, agreed upon, criteria to be closed
  • Enforcement of existing laws is paramount to solving problems in the forest
  • There is a need for community engagement- education, transparency, clean up, volunteer labor/material