Enduro motorcycle clubs, also known as dirt-bike clubs, have a long tradition of holding organized events in South Jersey forests. An "enduro" is a long-distance, cross-country time trial competition over a marked trail. It is an event that tests the ability of the rider against a pre-determined course, which must be ridden under very specific time constraints. Enduros can have as many as 400 riders per event.
Some clubs date back as far as the 1970s. Enduro clubs are required to obtain permits to hold organized racing events in state forests. But even these permitted events come with problems, such as illegal trails and riding after permitted events are finished. These events require significant oversight by state agencies and state park employees.
Under the off-road-vehicle law passed in 2009, dirt bikes are classified with other off-road vehicles and must be registered and titled. This provision will help in curtailing problems with individuals riding in state forests outside of permitted events and on private lands.
Still, a significant amount of time is needed by state agencies and state park employees for reviewing, monitoring and enforcing enduro event permits. In the past four years, enduro clubs in the Pinelands used 950 miles of trails, some of which were new trails created specifically for the enduro events.
To deal with this extensive management of the recreation permits, the State Park Service has introduced a new approach to managing organized motorized recreation in New Jersey state forests. Approved routes include plowed lines, unimproved roads and improved roads. Clubs interested in hosting events are permitted to plan events using any subset of these pre-approved routes. This program has reduced the staff time involved in reviewing these events, streamlined the permit process for applicants, and offers a balance of recreation and resource stewardship.
The State Park Service is currently applying this approach in Wharton State Forest but plans to apply this model to the other state forests throughout New Jersey after mapping pre-approved routes for these locations. This new approach not only reduces the work load of employees, but also helps to identify illegal trail creation and reduce natural-resource damages and conflicts with other recreational uses of the state forest.
This approach is a significant improvement over the management that has been in place for more than 30 years, and the Pinelands Preservation Alliance applauds the State Park Service for making this happen. However, the state forests must have State Police support in order to prevent riders from creating illegal trails on public and private property, and to ensure that riders aren't using the state forests outside of the permitted events. There have been several incidents of trespassing and trail creation on private lands, which require extensive time on the landowners' part to file the complaint, identify the areas of damage and determine who is responsible.
To improve on this situation, the Pinelands Preservation Alliance recommends that enduro clubs be required to escrow funds for permitted events in order to cover any resulting damage to the natural resources. The Pinelands Preservation Alliance also recommends that enforcement by State Police be increased.
We have shared these suggestions with the state Pinelands Commission and the State Park Service. The PPA will continue to track progress on these changes but will need the general public to share its support for these plans and be the eyes and ears for our public spaces.
Jaclyn Rhoads is the assistant executive director of the Pinelands Preservation Alliance. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.