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.

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

Open Trails Ideas for Wharton State Forest

As posted about recently, Open Trails participated in the Stakeholder forums for the redevelopment of the M.A.P. plan.  Leading up to this forum, we consulted with members of many different groups and developed an approach that we think all users of the forest can support, which does not involve mass closures. You can review the ideas we developed and submitted to the DEP below.

Path Forward – Stakeholder Meetings

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

A Beautiful Weekend For Outdoor Activities

Hope you all enjoyed this beautiful fall weekend, doing all the outdoor activities you appreciate. This photo was taken by a member of the Open Trails team yesterday at Batsto, doing one of the activities he enjoys, photography. The leadership of Open Trails NJ participate in a broad range of activities including hiking, kayaking, geocaching, hunting, enduro, photography, 4×4, etc. Our organization is dedicated to preserving the rights to the forest for all outdoor enthusiasts, whatever your hobby of choice.

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Please Sign this Petition

The DEP has agreed to hold Stakeholder forums and a public meeting on the M.A.P.; however, we are gravely concerned with their approach. Instead of following through with their commitment to truly work with the stakeholders, they are instead starting with the M.A.P., and asking the stakeholders to defend their needs to the DEP.  Please sign and share this petition to help assure a fair stakeholder and public forum session.

Click here for the Petition

Solving the Problems Facing our Forests while Maintaining Access for Responsible Recreation