Open Trails NJ Position on Defining a Map

Open Trails NJ is concerned about the proposed Resolution that is being considered at the upcoming Pinelands Commission meeting on 7/14.  This upcoming resolution would create a map of roads deemed acceptable for motor vehicle use.  While the maps that are being proposed are the USGS Topographical Maps and are widely recognized as the most comprehensive baseline of roads that exist, nonetheless, Open Trails NJ sees several unresolved concerns regarding this resolution. They are as follows:
  • In a previous meeting, the Commission discussed consulting the forest stakeholders before proposing the resolution. This stakeholder group includes various outdoor enthusiast groups, environmental groups, and the Pinelands Municipal Council. To our knowledge these groups have not been consulted.
  • It is not clear how this Resolution would affect events covered by Special Use Permits. Even some of the forest’s seemingly most insignificant roads are actually essential for the safety and successful running of these legal and approved events. Support crews, emergency vehicles and spectators count on these roads in ways it would be difficult for those unfamiliar with the events to contemplate.
  • It is not clear that this Resolution will have the desired effect. The DEP is solely responsible for enforcing any and all restrictions to motor vehicle access. Since the failure of the 2015 M.A.P. program, the DEP has taken on a more successful approach of enforcement, education and targeted protection projects. It is not clear that this Resolution will improve these efforts and, in fact, may undermine the progress made by the DEP in gaining the support of the stakeholder groups who, for the most part, currently support the DEP’s protection efforts. Further, the DEP has stated they do not need this map to be able to enforce motor vehicle related violations in the forest.
  • Most importantly, the resolution does not indicate how future changes to the map will be evaluated and adjudicated. The Pinelands Commission clearly does not have the resources to properly assess any kind of significant volume of proposed changes that may come in the future. It is not clear how the stakeholders would be engaged in this process. Further, some groups will undoubtedly view this as an opening to assail current, legal, responsible access, setting up the potential for a continued and protracted battle for access, which will further consume resources that the Pinelands Commission does not have. 
We believe that the Pinelands Commission should table this Resolution and consult with the DEP to see what, if anything, the Pinelands Commission can do to help the DEP better protect the forest.