Comprehensive legislation regarding use of all-terrain vehicles (ATVs) in state parks has been proposed by NJ Assemblyman Reed Gusciora, who represents District 15 in our chapter area. The bill would close gaping loopholes in current laws governing use of ATVs. Environmental groups have long pressed for such legislation.
No one who tries to enjoy our state parks and other open spaces has failed to notice the damage done by irresponsible ATV users. According to NJDEP, about 343,000 acres of state park, forest and wilderness have been damaged as a result of illegal ATV use. Rutted trails, torn-up vegetation, erosion, habitat destruction: all are hallmarks of freewheeling joy riding. Fixing the damage caused by ATVs is very costly. A natural gas transmission company in Maine spends $100,000 a year repairing such damage along its right-of-way. In their 2003 report, "Rutted and Ruined: ATV Damage in the Adirondack Forest Preserve," the Residents’ Committee to Protect the Adirondacks states, "The problem with ATVs is that they destroy the ground over which they are driven. And, by doing so they leave scars that will be visible for a generation, eroding public use and enjoyment for all who follow." (The 7.3 mb report, which contains many disturbing photos, can be downloaded at www.rcpa.org. Click on "Library," then "Special Reports.")
In spite of human injury and even death caused by the reckless use of these vehicles, New Jersey currently does not have a requirement that they be registered and insured or that their operators be licensed or trained in safe operation. There is a DEP rule prohibiting the use of ATVs in state parks; however, a rule does not have the same clout as a law.
Assemblyman Gusciora’s bill would make the prohibition of ATVs in state parks a law. Furthermore, it would require ATVs to be registered and insured, and their operators to be licensed and trained in safe use. ATVs would have to bear standard sized license plates. As of this writing, the bill does not yet have a number or co-sponsors. But it’s not too early to get behind the campaign to tighten up regulation of these vehicles. There is much work to be done: getting co-sponsors for the Assembly bill; launching a similar bill in the State Senate; getting the bills through committees; and, finally, getting the bills passed. At the same time, we need to work on getting local ordinances in place to protect parks and other open spaces that would not be covered by the state park ATV prohibition.
What you can do:
|If you have any questions or suggestions, please contact either of the following:|