The American Motorcyclist Association presented research data and assistance to the East Coast Enduro Association last Monday during discussions with the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection in an effort to reopen some existing off-highway motorcycle trails in New Jersey state forests that were closed by administrative action in 2012.
During a two-and-a-half-hour meeting at the DEP headquarters in Trenton, the AMA-chartered ECEA outlined its objection to the DEP’s current policy that restricts enduro and other events to blacktop, gravel and sand and woods roads, with off-road travel limited to existing fire cuts.
Steve Salisbury, AMA’s off-road government affairs manager, and Danielle Fowles, AMA’s grassroots coordinator, presented the DEP with information about the positive economic impact of off-highway-vehicle use. The pair also offered advice on the use of volunteers and other trail-management solutions.
"There are science-based processes used in national and other states’ forests to differentiate sustainable from non-sustainable historic trails," Salisbury said. "They are relevant in New Jersey and should have been part of the discussion all along."
The DEP’s policy change — called the menu system — initially was presented to the ECEA in 2009. The original draft of the plan included the OHV trails, and DEP staff members requested from the ECEA the GPS coordinates for the trails.
When the final plan was issued in 2012, the ECEA trails had been eliminated with no further discussion, said ECEA President Jamie Theurkauf.
"The system, imposed by the DEP two years ago, fails to acknowledge hundreds of miles of existing single-track trails that are approved in the Pinelands Comprehensive Management Plan and have been used by the ECEA and its predecessors since 1937," Theurkauf said. "All we are seeking is development of a plan that will enable integration of sound forest management principles and ensure the survival of a 75-plus-year tradition of enduros in New Jersey. Included should be the use of sustainable trails that have been part of our DEP-approved events.
"Neither the DEP nor the anti-motorcyclist groups offer any scientific evidence that our events are responsible for any adverse effects in the state forests," he said.
During the Monday meeting, Ray Cantor, chief adviser to DEP Commissioner Bob Martin, told the ECEA that he would listen to ECEA recommendations, present them for DEP consideration and then provide feedback to the OHV community in future discussions.
"We plan to continue to monitor this situation and assist the ECEA wherever possible," Salisbury said. "There is no justification for keeping these trails closed to responsible use by off-highway motorcyclists."