Essex County squanders volunteer trail work-Still no MTB

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Essex County squanders volunteer trail work-Still no MTB

Postby mergs » Thu Mar 31, 2011 2:38 pm

The South Mountain Conservancy held their Annual Meeting last night at the Maplewood Library. Among other topics, the topic of the Sustainable Trails Initiative and proposed Mountain Biking Pilot was touched upon. In addition the language below was circulated as a handout to the attendees of the annual meeting.

The take-away: the good will of our volunteers is being taken for granted and its clear that Essex County is unwilling to make a decision on this the adoption of the Mountain Biking Plan. Essex County residents will need to convince the elected representatives that mountain biking is a legitimate activity in the reservation and that the pilot should be implemented this Spring as was promised at last year's Annual Meeting.

In the meantime, I want to state that JORBA truly regrets that JORBA and its partner South Mountain Conservancy were unable to leverage all the good will of the trail work volunteers into a convincing argument that the county to adopt the plan. JORBA feels incredibly disappointed collectively and we apologize if we've contributed to any false hopes (hopes that we've shared ourselves) to the volunteers. From the beginning and even up to and after the 2010 election season we felt 100% confident that if we just gave the County time to work through the issues that we would achieve our shared goal: responsible, legal mountain biking on sustainable trails within South Mountain Reservation.

According to all indicators this is not going to happen in Spring 2011 as planned, and we deeply regret this reality. Therefore, JORBA can no longer support a volunteer Sustainable Trails Initiative until the County of Essex comes forward and displays a good faith commitment to the proposed Pilot Program. We truly hope that the county will resume talks with the Conservancy and adopt the Pilot this year, and JORBA stands ready to re-energize support if that indeed happens.

JORBA wishes to thank the South Mountain Conservancy, its Chairperson and its Board of Trustees, for being willing partners in the Sustainable Trails Initiative and fighting for what is right for the Reservation. Finally, thank you to the volunteers that came out and made the bulk of the reservation's trails sustainable. Your efforts are not in vain; the reservation is a better place because of your efforts.

This is the handout from our partner, the South Mountain Conservancy:

== Draft ==

The South Mountain Conservancy regrets to report that the County of Essex has decided that it will not proceed with the Conservancy's 18 month Multi-Use Pilot Program. No reason was provided by the County, except that the County believes now is not the time for such a Program. After a year of studying all of the issues and science behind mountain biking and sustainable trails, in December 2008, the Conservancy submitted a detailed plan to allow mountain biking in limited portions of the South Mountain Reservation. Such a recommendation was in line with similar programs promoted by such diverse groups as the National Parks Service, the Sierra Club, and many of the other Counties in New Jersey, and was in the best interest of the South Mountain Reservation and its users.

Since the summer of 2007, in partnership with the Jersey Off Road Bicycling Association ("JORBA"), the Conservancy has been conducting monthly trail maintenance and trail construction days in the Reservation. The purpose of the trail days was to replace eroded and improperly constructed trails with new, sustainable trails, for the benefit of all users. With guidance and instruction from JORBA, these trail days have resulted in over 3 miles of new, sustainable trails in the Reservation, with more exciting new trails planned 2011 - all at no cost to the taxpayer. Of the approximately 2,000 volunteer hours to date, more than 75% was donated from the local mountain biking community even though they are currently not permitted to ride in the Reservation. The Conservancy's experience in the Reservation corresponds to that throughout the State and Country, proving that the mountain biking community consistently contributes strong, knowledgeable and hard working volunteers. The Conservancy is sorry that the County's rejection of the Conservancy's Multi-Use Pilot Program will deprive these dedicated volunteers from sharing the Reservation they help to improve and maintain, and that the Reservation will likely lose all of their volunteer work in the future.

As the County had continually suggested that they would be moving forward with the Pilot Program, the Conservancy was surprised by the County's sudden reversal. The failure to proceed with the Multi-Use Pilot Program is not only a loss to the mountain biking community, but will also be a loss to South Mountain Reservation due to the loss of volunteers, the loss of invaluable experience in trail maintenance and construction, and the loss of potential grants available to parks which permit mountain biking. The Conservancy thanks JORBA and the International Mountain Biking Association ("IMBA") for its continued support of the South Mountain Reservation trail network.


Essex County Park System:

South Mountain Conservancy:
What would we do without trails? Let's not find out.

"Cycling tracks will abound in Utopia" - H.G. Wells
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