Some West Milford residents are outraged that the township sent a crew into a wooded area on Earth Day last month to cut down trees and block trails that ATV riders have blazed for generations.
There are no public lands in New Jersey where riding an ATV, quad or dirt bike is legal. West Milford, with 87 square miles of mostly watershed, is cut off from trails – and a prime spot for off-roading has long been a patch of council-owned forest off Macopin Road and behind the Camelot estates.
Residents of Camelot Estates say they’ve shared the trails with off-road riders for generations. But that road-sharing relationship ended on April 22, when, without warning, the township sent a team with chainsaws into the forest to chop down trees and lay them on the trails.
“I came home from work, walked in the woods and felt like throwing up,” said Dave Mussina, who lives in King Arthur’s Court on the edge of the woods. Mussina’s wife works from home and she heard the roar of chainsaws as they ripped through the natural playground where all the couple’s six boys play.
“I stopped counting at 85 the number of trees they felled,” Mussina said. “It is completely absurd that these trees were cut down. That’s crazy. And they did it on Earth Day, no less.
“I know the kids come back here and ride dirt bikes and everything, but for our neighborhood that doesn’t seem to be a problem,” said Scott Kochan, 55, who has lived there for 24 years. “To cut down trees that weren’t even dead. I think they [the township] lost all control.”
The city disagrees.
West Milford bought the land from a private developer years ago with funding provided by the state’s Green Acres program. Land purchased with Green Acres money should be preserved as open space, but West Milford can’t seem to find a way to keep dirt bikes out.
West Milford Township Administrator William Senande declined an interview request for the story, but worked with the police department on a press release that was issued Monday evening.
The township said it had taken “drastic measures to prevent illegal activities” from continuing on the property, but did not say how many trees were felled, only that “several trees were felled” to block the all-terrain vehicle access.
“Eliminating vehicular access will prevent further environmental degradation of the area and the long-term benefits of forest reclamation of the area far outweigh any temporary measures that were needed,” the report said. communicated.
The township said the tree cutting is in full compliance with Green Acres guidelines that require it to maintain the land for public use. West Milford Police received 134 complaints about illegal ATV use last year and issued 15 summonses, the township said.
But residents say the forest – once popular with children, hikers, strollers and dog walkers – is not safe for anyone to use. The trails tangled in fallen branches and tree trunks.
“It’s absolutely disgusting and a disgrace,” said Donna DeRobertis, who grew up on Camelot Drive and has lived there for 40 years. “I grew up in these woods. It was a place where you could hike, bike, camp, do whatever you wanted. They destroyed it.
While some residents are willing to share the woods with off-road vehicles, others are not. Camelot residents said they know of a resident who lived on the edge of the woods who repeatedly complained about ATVs getting too close to his property.
“The destruction of the forest is a direct result of this man’s dissatisfaction with the machines,” said Bret Jenkins, whose garden touches the edge of the woods. “But this resident didn’t cut down the trees. The city did.
Stephen Sangle, chairman of the West Milford Environmental Commission, had not heard of the controversy as of Monday morning. But he said the commission was eager to hear from residents when it meets on Monday evening.
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