Proposal to open Griggstown Grasslands for bikers, July 12, 2014

mocosocoBirds is presenting the following letter as a public notice to make people aware of a proposal to open the Griggstown Native Grassland Preserve in Franklin Township for mountain bikers. Mark Grieco wrote the following note and sent it to Chris Duffek who passed it on to mocosocoBirds. Here is the contents of the message:

From Mark Grieco:
“On July 10, the Franklin Township Trails Advisory Committee voted to open the orange, yellow, purple, and brown trails to mountain bicyclists.  The issue will now go to the Open Space Advisory Committee.  I’m totally opposed to the bikers for several reasons:

  1. The preserve is a wildlife sanctuary.  My experience at Six Mile Run is that bikers frighten wildlife.  I can only imagine what this will do to birding at the site.
  2. The bikes will destroy the trails, by rutting, as they did at Six Mile Run.
  3. While the Trails Committee recommended prohibiting bikes on the red and blue trails for environmental reasons, the fact is from the preserve parking lot you can only get to the upper four trails by going through the red and blue trails.  This is a de facto opening up of the entire trails system, including those parts deemed sensitive, to the bikes. Both wildlife and the quality of the trail surfaces will suffer.
  4. The township has no policing of its open space.  It is irresponsible to invite more people to an area – a Geo Caching system was recently opened up at the preserve – that can not be policed.  That only increases the likelihood of vandalism and conflicts between various users of the preserve.
  5. The trail etiquette of many bikers is questionable.  Again, based on my years of experience, bicyclists travel at a high rate of speed on trails and rarely yield to hikers, as trail policy states at most sites.  Frankly, I find their approach to the natural environment, one that seems to value conquering nature as opposed to observing and learning from it as birders and hikers do, as incompatible to a wildlife sanctuary.

Simply put, bicycles are an incongruity, and at times a destructive force, in the natural environment and their presence should be greatly limited.  There are plenty of riding trails just down Canal Road at Six Mile Run; the bicyclists should use that site.

I’m hoping you can spread the word about this unfortunate recommendation by the Franklin Township Trails Advisory Committee to the birding community and they can make their concerns known to the township.  As I indicated above, the issue will now go to the Open Space Committee. The Franklin Township Council liaison to the Open Space Committee is Councilman Theodore Chase. His email is Councilman.Chase@twp.franklin.nj.us.  Thanks for your time and concern.  See you on the trails.”

Note from the editor: Any intelligently written opinions regarding this issue are welcome and will be added to this post as comments.

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3 Responses to Proposal to open Griggstown Grasslands for bikers, July 12, 2014

  1. Angi Metler says:

    I am happy there is opposition to the bikers for the reasons stated. Hunting is allowed in this “wildlife preserve” by permit and from what I’ve seen, hunters do not leave the places they hunt in pristine condition either. Since there are so many varying opinions on how this wildlife “sanctuary” should be used, perhaps it should be left alone to nature. If we care about wild places, it makes sense to leave them wild.

  2. Theodore Chase says:

    Today I found out where the proposal stands. The Open Space
    Committee discussed the proposal on June 17, without the proponent
    being present, and generally did not support it; there was no motion
    voted on. However, it was forwarded to the Trails Committee, which
    discussed it with the proponent present, and voted to recommend
    opening the upper trails, in the forest, to mountain bikes. The
    Trails Committee is technically sort of a subcommittee to Open Space,
    hence this recommendation goes back to Open Space. The Open Space
    Committee is not meeting in July [it would have met tonight], but may
    meet in August, and presumably would discuss the Trails Committee’s
    recommendation – if not then, in September. I will keep you informed
    as to whether there will be a meeting in August, as some of you may
    wish to attend.
    I personally, being a birder and not a biker, oppose opening any
    trails at Griggstown to bikers. I have had the same experience in
    Six Mile Run as others, having to jump off the trail when bikers
    silently approach. However, they created the trails there, and
    maintain them; thus I cannot object to their use of those trails.
    The situation in the Griggstown Grasslands is totally different: the
    trails were created and maintained for walkers. We have had
    difficulty getting ATVs out of the preserve, but they seem to have
    stopped using it. Many of the grassland trails are frequently wet,
    and mountain bikes would immediately create ruts and make them more
    difficult to walk on. While the trails in the woods – Orange,
    Yellow; Brown fades out, I haven’t been able to follow it – would be
    less subject to rutting, opening them to bikers would result in bikes
    riding up the red and blue trails to get to them, as Mark points out.
    Even if the Open Space Committee recommended opening these trails to
    bikers, the Council would have to amend the existing ordinance, which
    defines who may use what trails on township open space.
    Ted Chase
    Councilman, Franklin Township

  3. Vince Capp says:

    Allowing the Mountain Bikers to use any of the trails on the property will simply be the proverbial camel’s nose under the tent. They will use the red and blue to get up to the woodland trails, in theory. The damage that can be inflicted on these trails in a single year could be devastating. These bikers do not wait for the trails to dry out after a rain or a thaw, and will just plow their way through them. Then, to avoid the big hog wallows that they themselves have created- they will make new trails anywhere that suits their fancy. That’s how Mountain Biking works. Unless there is a Township official willing to spend 12 hours a day on site to insure that the bikers play nice and ‘follow the rules’, they will ride wherever they want to on the property. This is not anecdotal- it is what I have seen them do over at Six Mile Run- and elsewhere. It’s the nature of the beast.

    Over at Six Mile Run, I was among those that hacked that old yellow trail down along the stream back around 1981 or so- this was long before the area was ‘officially’ opened to hikers and bikers. There were only handful of people that even used the trails there then. When the State years later opened the greater park to bikers, both the red and the yellow trails were clearly marked as closed to bikes. That didn’t last long, and the bikers simply rode wherever they wished. There was no one to monitor the situation and insure that the bikers only rode on approved trails. The trail erosion and damage caused then accelerated dramatically. It was only much later on, after the tire damage inflicted to the trails became far more severe that the bike club ‘volunteered’ to begin repairing some of the trail damage, and began cutting new trails. It was more like bribery or extortion. “We will provide the labor to cut trails and make bridges, and you will allow us to use ALL of the trails in turn.” The “No Bikes” signs came down soon afterwards.

    Don’t think for a minute that those upper trails at Griggstown are more stable and immune to erosion. I have seen areas just like it suffer terribly from the constant use by bikers. In many of the places I have been to in Colorado, New Mexico, and other western states the trail heads are clearly marked-“No Mountain Biking Permitted” , often for several days after a rain. The Rangers then will take the signs down when trail conditions improve. That is a very smart approach, and the bikers grumble- but if they are caught on a trail that is temporarily closed, they lose their bike and pay a healthy fine. Had the State of New Jersey employed such a doctrine at Six Mile Run, The yellow trail would still be open, and the red trail wouldn’t have ruts that are anywhere from 1-2 feet deep in places.

    Thanks for all you have done Ted, and for keeping us informed on this matter. I will stand ready to pitch in and help to keep Griggstown entirely bike-free in any way that I can.

    Vince Capp

    From: Theodore Chase [mailto:chase_c@AESOP.Rutgers.edu] Sent: Tuesday, July 15, 2014 5:34 PM To: mocosocoBirds; Vince Capp; Laurie Zubritsky; Marc Chelemer Subject: Re: [New post] Proposal to open Griggstown Grasslands for bikers, July 12, 2014

    Today I found out where the proposal stands. The Open Space Committee discussed the proposal on June 17, without the proponent being present, and generally did not support it; there was no motion voted on. However, it was forwarded to the Trails Committee, which discussed it with the proponent present, and voted to recommend opening the upper trails, in the forest, to mountain bikes. The Trails Committee is technically sort of a subcommittee to Open Space, hence this recommendation goes back to Open Space. The Open Space Committee is not meeting in July [it would have met tonight], but may meet in August, and presumably would discuss the Trails Committee’s recommendation – if not then, in September. I will keep you informed as to whether there will be a meeting in August, as some of you may wish to attend.

    I personally, being a birder and not a biker, oppose opening any trails at Griggstown to bikers. I have had the same experience in Six Mile Run as others, having to jump off the trail when bikers silently approach. However, they created the trails there, and maintain them; thus I cannot object to their use of those trails. The situation in the Griggstown Grasslands is totally different: the trails were created and maintained for walkers. We have had difficulty getting ATVs out of the preserve, but they seem to have stopped using it. Many of the grassland trails are frequently wet, and mountain bikes would immediately create ruts and make them more difficult to walk on. While the trails in the woods – Orange, Yellow; Brown fades out, I haven’t been able to follow it – would be less subject to rutting, opening them to bikers would result in bikes riding up the red and blue trails to get to them, as Mark points out.

    Even if the Open Space Committee recommended opening these trails to bikers, the Council would have to amend the existing ordinance, which defines who may use what trails on township open space.

    Ted Chase

    Councilman, Franklin Township

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