Category Archives: News

Wildlife Management Area Closures

OTNJ is disappointed to hear about the recent actions by the DEP regarding closures within certain Wildlife Management Areas. OTNJ as well as other stakeholder groups have been in recent contact with the DEP, and in those discussions, they stressed they were planning to be open and transparent and to engage the public in their future plans regarding access. We have no doubt that these WMAs are experiencing stress from illegal activity, however, closures are the worst possible outcome from the perspective of a law abiding citizen. Unless enforcement is stepped up, all this will accomplish is preventing law abiding citizens from gaining access while the offenders will continue unabated. These types of actions make us wonder if the DEP is really planning on engaging the stakeholders and if they learned from previous mistakes in this area. If this action is impacting you, please contact NJ Fish and Wildlife at 609-292-2965 or email them by clicking here:

Pinelands Commission Update

The Pinelands Commission held their Policy and Implementation meeting today and discussed a potential resolution to create a map using the USGS Topographical Maps as a baseline of roads. Learning the lessons of the DEP MAP, they instead decided to set up a sub-committee and solicit inputs from the stakeholders on next steps. OTNJ is satisfied with this result. While the USGS map is very comprehensive and would not restrict legal, legitimate motor vehicle access, OTNJ is concerned with how this map could be maintained over time considering the very limited resources the Pinelands Commission has. OTNJ will continue to monitor this situation and will alert our membership for action if we foresee a negative impact to legitimate motorized recreation.


Open Trails NJ Participates in DEP Protection Project

Open Trails NJ staff participated with other groups in a small volunteer activity to protect four sensitive intermittent ponds in Wharton State Forest. This activity furthers the protection of sensitive areas without requiring mass road closures. We are thankful to the DEP for continuing to forge relationships with the stakeholder groups in their mission to protect the forest and look forward to participating in future protection projects!

Read the DEP Press Release for details.



DEP Releases New Plan for Wharton State Forest

The DEP released their new plan at the stakeholder meeting last night, which OTNJ and other stakeholder groups were a part of.

The plan consists of stepping up enforcement and protecting environmentally sensitive areas. Technology and equipment, including cameras, helicopters, drones and new vehicles will be brought to bear to enforce rules that already exist and are in place.

The plan does not include mass, indiscriminate, closures of roads. Entrances to the forest will be marked with signs that warn that the area is patrolled and the laws will be enforced. Violators will face stiff fines including possible impoundment of vehicles. The signs posted will help charges to be able to be upheld in court, a previous serious impediment to enforcement. Focus on maintenance will be increased, however, it is acknowledged that there is a shortfall between what is wanted and the funding available.

This plan was forged with input from thousands of stakeholders including environmental groups, hunters, hikers, kayakers, horseback riders and 4×4 enthusiasts. In any compromise, not everyone will be 100% happy, but this is a plan that no reasonable person could disagree with.

We aplaud the DEP for their efforts and we are hopeful that all groups, including those that originally supported the MAP, can now unify support for this reasonable and effective approach.

We will continue to provide updates as we get them.

OTNJ has teamed up with Tread Lightly!

Tread Lightly! is a national organization that promotes responsible
recreation through stewardship, communication and education. Recently, some of the OTNJ staff attended a Tread Lightly! “train theTL-OTNJ.001 trainer” course and our own Pola Galie will be giving a Tread Lightly! talk on Sunday, 4/17/16 at the Lighthouse Center for Natural Resource Education, Waretown, NJ at 3:00 PM (More details to follow) We are excited about the new opportunities this relationship with Tread Lightly! will bring!


News Before the Holidays

We just wanted to check in and give you all an update before we get into the holiday hustle and bustle. We have a few exciting things going on. First, we have been incorporated! That is getting us one step closer to being able to offer OTNJ memberships and starting to plan other activities. We have finalized our committee structure and will shortly be asking for volunteers interested in helping us out. Also, we have an upcoming meeting with the DEP next week to talk about how OTNJ can help in Wharton State Forest. Finally, on a lighter note, we spotted this supporter out “in the wild” today and it brought a smile to our faces. Thank you anonymous supporter! More to come, stay tuned!IMG_1765

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.

Outstanding News From the Office of the Commissioner- A clean slate!

Our friends at the NJOA have shared some excellent news from the DEP Commissioner, Bob Martin.   The DEP has heard the publics voice.  Effective immediately, the MAP Plan is suspended indefinitely.  All roads that were recently closed that do not pose a public safety risk or expose sensitive areas will be reopened.  Further,  from this point forward, the DEP is committed to starting with a “blank slate”, which is exactly what we have been asking for.  Thank you for all the work that you have all done to make your voices heard.  Let’s move forward in cooperation and develop a plan that will help solve the problems facing the forest while keeping it open for responsible recreation.  Please see attached for the letter.

Letter from Commissioner Bob Martin

Lakehurst Passes Resolution in Opposition

Lakehurst recently became the 9th town to pass a resolution opposing the M.A.P., joining Waterford, Shamong, Eastampton, Medford, Medford Lakes, Manchester, North Hanover, and Pemberton.

If you are a resident of one of these towns, please take the time to email or call your mayor and council and thank them for supporting your rights.