Editorial writers being fans of the occasional cliche, we're tempted to say, "Gentlemen, start your engines" to mark the opening of the state's first park for off-road vehicles.

But since so many riders of all-terrain vehicles and dirt-bikes so often ride in anything but a gentlemanly fashion, we can't quite bring ourselves to do it.

Instead, let's try this: Riders, you got what you wanted. Now prove that you deserve it.

Too harsh? We don't think so. ATV riders have been the scourge of neighborhoods and woodlands for years. Their machines are noisy. They annoy neighbors. They routinely ride illegally in the Pine Barrens, destroying plant and animal habitats. And they're dangerous. ATV accidents have killed six South Jersey youths under the age of 16 since 2001.

Now, in an effort to curb illegal, destructive ATV riding - and to comply with a law signed in 2010 - the state has opened the first of three promised off-road parks.

The Mount Pleasant State Off-Road Vehicle Park, at a 63-acre former gravel pit at the intersection of Routes 610 and 550 in Woodbine, opened Sunday.

Have a ball, folks. And here's hoping the park really does curb illegal riding.

Up until now, riding ATVs on any state land was illegal. The 2010 law increased registration fees and toughened penalties for illegal riding, among other provisions. But the law gave the state three years to make "substantial progress" on opening three legal riding places - one each in South Jersey, Central Jersey and North Jersey - or the increased registration fees would expire.

Using Green Acres funds, the Department of Environmental Protection bought the Woodbine site in 2011 for $393,000. Sunday's opening of the park would appear to meet the deadline. Riders can use the park for free now, but ultimately the park will be run by a private operator who would charge a fee. The DEP is preparing a request for proposals from prospective park operators.

The site of the new Mount Pleasant State Off-Road Vehicle Park was a private motocross track at one point, and officials are hoping the site's existing trails and jumps will provide the kind of challenge ATV riders want.

We hope so, too. Because as Jeff Tittel of the New Jersey Sierra Club has pointed out, the state's Green Acres open-space fund is now out of money. The ATV riders are getting what they demanded at the expense of other open-space purchases. It will be up to them to prove that this was, in fact, a worthwhile purchase.

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