WOODBINE — A new state park for all-terrain vehicles and off-road motorcycles opened Sunday morning — surprisingly quietly.
Just a handful of riders tried out the trails and jumps in the 10-acre section of Belleplain State Park when the Mount Pleasant ATV Park had its official opening. But those who did gave the park good reviews — although they also offered plenty of suggestions for improving it.
Eric Hartem, 55, of Dennis Township’s Eldora section, had fun riding his dirt bike in the state’s newest park. But he said the spot isn’t exactly new to him.
“I rode here about 35 years ago, when it was just an abandoned pit,” Hartem said. “Back then, there were lots of places you could ride.”
But there are far fewer legal spots in New Jersey for riders to take their machines now. The state Department of Environmental Protection said these trails, in a woodsy section of the Cape May County town of Woodbine, are the only place where riders are allowed to do that now on state-owned land.
So Richard Boornazian, an assistant DEP commissioner, said the new park is part of a plan to contain the off-road vehicles in places where they’re allowed to ride. It’s the first of three facilities the state hopes to set up, with the others to follow in central and northern New Jersey.
“We want to get the illegal riders off our other state lands,” he said.
And some people were willing to drive a long way to ride on that short track — although the state expects to expand the ¾-mile network of trails now open in the park. The DEP actually owns 63 acres on the property, once the Mount Pleasant Sand and Gravel operation.
Ron and Ian McCallum, a father and son, drove an hour and 45 minutes from Freehold, Monmouth County, to check out the trails.
“It’s a very nice start,” said Ron, 42, who works at an off-road vehicle shop and figures he has been riding “since I was 5. ... We could use one of these closer to Central Jersey.”
Ian, 19, added that the park also needs a spot that’s open to younger riders. As it is, the state’s rules let no one younger than 14 ride on the trails, but he argues that young ATV and motorcycle riders can learn skills that will help them later in life — by making them safer drivers on the state’s roads
“It helps you judge speed and distance better,” he said.
Mike DeRosa, 37, Corbin City, said the state needs to be less restrictive with the types of motorcycles it allows at the park, too. The rules require that all vehicles have headlights and taillights, and DeRosa, who owns Proformance Cycles in his hometown, said that street-legal requirement leaves out the vast majority of dirt bikes.
“I have about 30 motocross (cycles) in my shop right now,” DeRosa said, “and not one would be legal here.”
Kenny Dean Montanaro, of Waretown, is a former director of the New Jersey Off Road Vehicle Park, which closed in 2008 in Chatsworth, in the heart of the state’s pinelands in Burlington County. The park was a nonprofit setup designed to give kids a place to ride — and to get outside, into nature and away from computers and video games, he said.
Montanaro agreed that the new Mount Pleasant park should be open to younger riders, and more riders. He added that his organization is interested in being the formal operator the state is seeking to run the Woodbine park, but said the legislation creating the off-road trails needs to be “tweaked.”.
The town’s mayor, Bill Pikolycky, pointed out that the Mount Pleasant site had been an off-road track in the past.
Louis Bianchino Jr., of Dennis Township, was one of two partners to open a track there for young riders in 2003, but Bianchino was killed a few months later when his tractor flipped over as he groomed the trails.
“This is Louis Bianchino Day as far as I’m concerned,” said Pikolycky, in front of an audience that included Bianchino’s widow, Deborah, and many more family members and friends.
The mayor added that his town was happy to host the park.
“It’s something that has long been needed,” Pikolycky said, “and I hope everyone has a legal place to come and ride.”
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