ATVs are not compatible with many land uses in Galloway Township.

All-terrain vehicles, or ATVs, can be seen in use around much of Galloway Township. They are generally the motorized minibikes, motorcycles, motor quads (four wheeled) or motor trikes (three wheeled). Some can be street legal, many times they are not equipped that way. ORVs, or “off-road vehicles” are generally the larger vehicles like four-wheel drive cars, stock or altered pickup trucks and even surplus military equipment. Sometimes the terms are used interchangeably, so I’ll refer to them all as ATVs. By whatever name, there are issues about their usage that need to be addressed.

Individuals, random groups of riders or organized clubs come out to ride the trails, pits and elsewhere. Large sums of money are often expended for the various types of equipment and alterations.

There are very few places in Galloway Township where it is legal to operate ATVs. This issue has become highlighted recently with the acquisition of the “Smithville Pit” property by Galloway Township. This old Hansen Co. gravel extraction pit, empty for many years, had become a playground for ATV riders. Galloway will be transitioning this 100-plus acre property into a nature reserve and passive recreation park featuring hiking and mountain biking trails, birdwatching, botanical and biological restoration and possibly even a sledding hill! A similar transformation, not without similar challenges, has become the very popular Egg Harbor Township Nature Reserve; which was formerly known as the Canale Pit.

The Smithville Pit is now partially blocked off by dirt piles and signs erected indicating that ATV usage is forbidden there, with limited success so far. What is happening now is that more ATV traffic is turning up in places that have always been off limits to ATVs, places perhaps not as clearly delineated as they should be.

Right next to the pit are the homeowners and renters of the Smithville area of Eastern Galloway, interspersed with almost 1,000 acres of Smithville Conservation Lands that are “set aside” natural areas. Also, near the old landfill on Galloway Road, both north and south we have lands under the auspices of New Jersey DEP Division of Fish and Wildlife; then the clearly marked areas of the Forsythe Wildlife Refuge, a division of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Further south, we have the Seaview Tract, between Great Creek Road and Jimmie Leeds Roads, under the auspices of the Atlantic County Park system and adjacent lands owned by the state and federal Fish and Wildlife units. The Seaview Tract has clear signage, yet hikers, mountain bikers and naturalists report ATV activity that interferes with their legal, safe usage and also contributes to the harassment of wildlife.

ATVs have been observed on Smithville residential walking paths and around the Smithville School. Riders appear dangerously at road crossings and even on stretches of municipal, county and state roads on vehicles that are often not street legal.

Each of these agencies mentioned above have their own enforcement powers and are able to levy penalties and confiscate ATVs if necessary. Even though this is all within Galloway borders, it is not entirely the purview of the Galloway Township Police Department to handle all of these interagency areas. All of the township emergency services will be available of course, as injuries and deaths have occurred out in these lands in the past due to accidents.

The Galloway Township Police Department, manager, council and Environmental Commission; the Smithville Conservation Coalition; and the county, state and federal agencies mentioned above would like to help all enthusiasts enjoy their recreation and hobbies, with respect for legal land usage. Plans are being developed by gathering ideas and information; including signage. Cooperation will be most certainly needed from residents, visitors, land stakeholders, enforcement agencies, riders, hikers and others.

If you see ATV activity on any of these natural areas owned by Galloway Township, Atlantic County Parks, Smithville Conservation Lands, N.J. DEP Fish and Wildlife or the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, we ask that you report it, including date and time to the “Atlantic County MTB Group” on Facebook. This group very actively lays out and maintains permitted mountain-style bicycling and hiking trails with a light footprint. Activity specifically on NJDFW lands can additionally be reported to the state by calling 877-WARNDEP. Activity specifically on Atlantic County lands can be reported to Atlantic County by calling 609-625-8219. Finally, illegal ATV activity can also be reported to the Galloway Township police at 609-652-3705. (Report any emergency to 911.)

Go Green Galloway is a volunteer organization dedicated to reducing the carbon footprint of Galloway through the promotion of energy efficiency and conservation, environmental education and the implementation of sustainable practices. We always welcome new volunteer members. Contact us at gogreengalloway12@gmail.com or call Mary at 609-742-7076. Also be sure to like our Facebook page.

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