WEST MILFORD — The township council will not fund a feasibility study for an ATV park, rescinding an earlier motion to do so.
Councilwoman Marilyn Lichtenberg said she “regrets” voting in favor of funding the study earlier, which would have helped the township find a suitable place for the proposed park.
“If Jungle Habitat is being considered, let the state do it,” said Lichtenberg. “If it’s private, let them do it. I don't think the town should do the feasibility study. I will be voting no for anything that goes forward with the ATV park and study.”
Lichtenberg said she is concerned people will come to West Milford for the ATV park, see all of the open space available and ride illegally, causing more of a problem.
Councilwoman Ada Erik agreed with Lichtenberg. She said ATV riders are “extremely disrespectful,” making their own bridges, cutting fences and trees to make their own riding pathways.
“What they're doing is illegal,” she said.
She and many others don’t want to consider Jungle Habitat as an ATV course site because it is already used by many other residents for hiking and biking.
Councilman Lou Signorino is the councilman who got the discussion started, suggesting last year that the township look for a place for ATV riders to ride legally. It is illegal to ride anywhere but on one's own private property or a designated park. He has said it is a good, family activity and should be allowed.
An ATV committee was formed and began meeting to come up with ideas for a park. It was in their committee meetings that potential properties were mentioned as possible sites. Jungle Habitat was one of the first. Meeting minutes also mentioned Banker Road, as reported in The Messenger last month. That sparked several residents to come out against this.
Banker Road residents objectGary Gittleson, who lives on Banker Road, said he hasn’t had good experiences with ATV riders. His property abuts the state park; ATV riders were using his property to get to the park. After some time, he and his wife put up a fence so the riders couldn’t come onto their property. He said he'd put big boulders to prevent the riders from crossing the stream but they'd get out and move the boulders. He said they tried to run him down several times.
“This is something that doesn’t belong in West Milford, maybe not the state,” said Gittleson. “It's the most densely populated state in the country. Maybe this doesn't belong in this state.”
Mary Loudin agrees with Gittleson, her husband. She said she was shocked to read that Banker Road had been mentioned as a possible site.
“As a long-time resident of Upper Greenwood Lake, I strongly object to the placement of an ATV park anywhere in our lake community of over 7,000 residents,” Loudin told the council.
She said she was concerned that the town would combine her property, known as Morning Mist Farm, with other adjacent acres to create a space large enough for a park.
Signorino said Banker Road would have never been considered. The town never intended to take anyone’s land, only to look at properties whose owners would be interested or the public lands. The council had requested a list of large properties a year ago from the township, which is probably how Banker Road was mentioned, he noted.
Residents of Mountain Circle, nearby to Jungle Habitat, have been at council meetings voicing their objections to the park being placed there. They said the noise would greatly impact their neighborhood and the ATVs themselves would ruin the bike trails that have been maintained by volunteers for years.
Council rescinds fundingNone of it may happen now. Lichtenberg made the motion to rescind the prior resolution to fund the feasibility study up to $11,000. Erik and Councilwoman Vivienne Erk agreed. Councilwoman Michele Dale abstained while Signorino voted no. The motion passed 3-2, with Councilman Mike Hensley absent.
Moving forwardSignorino said only three of the nine ATV Committee members showed up for the July committee meeting so there was no meeting. He is hoping to have a quorum in August and get a sense of whether they will be continuing.
Mayor Bettina Bieri said the study had not yet begun so no money was spent on it. The governing body is waiting for a memo coming from the township engineer who met with the state Department of Environmental Protection about the hurdles the township will face if they move forward with this. The memo, she said, would “see whether a feasibility study is even feasible.”
The committee could take on the search for an appropriate place themselves, but engineering is vital to that task.
“This could kill the project,” said Signorino. He said he will know better when the committee meets in August. “Of course I'm disappointed. I absolutely want to give people a place to ride legally, as long as we have volunteers.”
What do you think? Should the ATV Committee move forward with finding a suitable location for an ATV park or is West Milford not the place for it? Go to westmilfordmessenger.com and tell us your thoughts.