Millburn’s Environmental Commission Discusses Mtn Bikin

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Millburn’s Environmental Commission Discusses Mtn Bikin

Postby mergs » Thu Mar 12, 2009 6:05 pm ... ?news=1979

Millburn’s Environmental Commission Discusses Mountain Biking in South Mountain Reservation

By Jennifer Sheffield

On Thursday, March 5th, eight members of the Millburn Environmental Commission (EC) met for a re-scheduled session. The meeting was kicked off by Commission Chairperson, Jennifer Duckworth, who said, "There is a lot of stuff [going on]. Spring is coming!"

Highlights for the month of March include a gathering in Summit at Huntley Taverne called "Green Drinks" on March 17th. The event will commence at 7:30 p.m., and is, from an environmental standpoint, "a gathering of people that have done good stuff," said Commission member Andrew Chalnick, who added that it is also "a chance to mingle with folks from other communities, and learn from them."

The Commission briefly discussed geese population control and the ANJEC Smart Growth Planning grant proposal that is due at the end of March. The ANJEC program provides matching reimbursements to municipalities to cover costs of developing plans, ordinances or studies that will help to establish land use patterns for municipalities that are envisioned by the State Plan. The maximum grant is $20,000.

Commission member and Vice-Chair of the South Mountain Conservancy (SMC), Vaclav Benes welcomed guest Michael Feldman, SMC Board member, who discussed what turned out to be the key issue of the meeting. Feldman made an argument in favor of the South Mountain Reservation Multi-Use Proposal being submitted to the Township Council, which addresses mountain biking in the park.

Feldman explained the results of a two-year study, conducted throughout the state, which looked at not just whether mountain biking should be allowed in the reservation, but what benefits and user conflicts bikers could bring to the reservation. "The major thing we saw in all the places that mountain biking was allowed," he said, "was that what developed were large groups of mountain bikers that participated in trail maintenance and construction."

The International Mountain Biking Association came to Millburn in July, 2007 to teach people how to build sustainable trails. Feldman reported, "The concept behind this isn’t just to put more trails in the reservation, but that its trails weren’t designed with any concept in mind. As a result, there is a lot of erosion that makes them unpleasant to hike on. Also, you see road damage, and overflow into the water which ends up coming through town."

Although the South Mountain Reservation Multi-Use Proposal asks to allow mountain biking in three-quarters of the reservation, it will not be permitted in the Millburn section of the reservation. In return for being allowed to mountain bike in the reservation, the mountain biking community would maintain the trail, though, Feldman reminded, "everyone is invited [to help]." From a biker-pedestrian standpoint, the Proposal requests that the trails not be straight, to discourage speeding and make them more interesting for walkers.

Close to 1300 hours of volunteer work have resulted in three miles of new trails. Feldman said that, "90% of these hours were [volunteered] by people who consider themselves mountain bikers, even though [mountain biking] is illegal here." Under the South Mountain Reservation Multi-Use Proposal, there would be a permit system, and the County has made clear that if the rules are not enforced, they will not allow mountain biking in the reservation, Feldman said. However, the proposal is currently at a standstill. The South Mountain Conservancy is seeking resolutions from towns bordering the reservation to support an 18-month pilot program.

Commission Chairperson Duckworth expressed concern that people would ride illegally, and thinks that it is bold to ask for so much of the reservation where parents walk with their kids. Feldman replied, "If you legalize it, you can regulate it. Right now bikers know the county doesn’t enforce it and no one is teaching them any rules. The concept of having mounting biking is not to have a free-for-all."

In other news, Duckworth reported on the Essex County Environmental Commission 2008 Annual Report. "The only thing that jumps out at me," she said, "is that the total number of trees removed last year were 182, whereas the number planted was only 118."

In his report on the Sustainable Millburn Task Force, Commission member Chalnick led the way for the Commission to pass a resolution that will go the Township Council supporting its participation in the Sustainable Jersey â„¢ municipal certification program.

In school news, Carlotta Lane announced that five recycling containers ordered for the elementary schools will be completed by mid-March. Her team is targeting Earth Day, April 22, for official installations at Deerfield, Glenwood, Hartshorn, South Mountain and Wyoming schools. Lane also reported that, in general, single stream recycling in the school system has helped. However, she said, "The state of recycling is very different from the expectations when we adopted single stream and we’re at a point now where we’re paying for every ton of recycling we generate."

David Harrison said that he and Lane met with the Millburn-Short Hills Little League (MSHLL). In Lane’s view, "DPW has installed more open drums at Gero Park to the point of comedy," adding, "The problem is cross-contamination and the need to provide ‘idiot-proof’ recycling bins." The practice fields were deemed harder to regulate, but for game fields, the League agreed to pursue a couple of new regulations for 2009, including the elimination of coffee stirs, hot cup covers, and sale of Starburst candy – which produces small wrapper trash difficult to contain.

On a typical weekend, Gero Park hosts as many as 50 games on four playing fields and the Commission plans to approach lacrosse and soccer clubs as it has approached the Little League. "Little League could be the template," said Harrison. "They’re willing to play the game. We just need the town to do their part."

Finally, the Commission announced that Clean Up Millburn will take place April 20-26 and preparations for the May 27 Aquafest at Hartshorn School are underway.

Duckworth concluded, "We’re trying to get people to come to our meetings. They are jam-packed with information. We always have a presentation. [As] you can see, everybody really is passionate."

Environmental Commission regular monthly meetings are held at Millburn Town Hall, starting at 7:30 p.m. For more information on the Commission, contact Jennifer Duckworth at and for more information about South Mountain Conservancy, contact
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