Give ATV users their ticket to ride

The demand for an all-terrain vehicle (ATV) facility in the area is here, and the time for Millstone to seriously consider creating one is now.

There are more than 250,000 ATVs in New Jersey and almost no place in the state where it is legal to ride these and other off-road vehicles (ORVs). It’s illegal to ride ATVs on public lands and illegal to ride them on private lands without permission.

Except for an 80-acre facility in Chatsworth in Burlington County – which is expected to close this year – and one or two other smaller approved facilities, New Jersey offers very few legal areas where ATV enthusiasts can ride. The state did purchase a 213-acre abandoned sand mine in Monroe in Burlington County with the intent of building an ATV park there, but it has yet to follow through with those plans. Even if that facility is built, with more than 45,000 ATVs sold in New Jersey each year, it would not meet the growing demand for legal areas to ride in, which would continue to force ATV enthusiasts in the state to ride renegade, putting themselves and others, along with the habitats where they ride, in danger.

An ATV park in Monmouth County would relieve damage to municipal, county, state and private lands in the area while cutting down on injuries and fatalities from uncontrolled riding. Millstone, which regularly has problems with riders, might be the perfect place for such a facility.

Last year, Millstone Mayor Nancy Grbelja had said that the township might look at earmarking a piece of land for ATV use. Although Millstone’s newly released recreation plan does not cite a specific area of town for such a use, we hope officials are still considering creating the ATV park.

An ATV park in Millstone would boost the local economy by drawing on its natural resource base. Such a facility would also help reduce the high levels of illegal ATV use in the area and the number of complaints local officials and the New Jersey State Police receive regarding that usage.

The opening of a supervised facility could also help cut down the number of ATV-related accidents in the area as it did near the Atlantic City Expressway where one town built a small ATV park, funded by user fees and some government grants. That park offers classes on safe and environmentally conscientious riding and, as a result, the area has seen its number of ambulance calls and complaints involving ATVs and dirt bikes drop 85 percent.

Millstone’s recreation report lists properties such as the 82-acre Campo Mines property – located off Baird and Pine Hill roads, with frontage on two roads – that might be suitable for such an endeavor. The township might also try to see if the county would consider using some of the 1,200 acres it will acquire around Perrineville Lake or part of its acreage around the Charleston Spring Golf Course, to develop such a park.

The township might also reach out to Buck Mining and Materials Inc., which has expressed the possibility of using a portion of its Millstone quarry for such a facility to reduce its own problems with trespassing riders.

Municipalities and their law enforcement agencies may never have the manpower to police all public and private properties from illegal ATV use. Towns like Millstone should therefore consider creating their own regulated facilities while urging the Legislature to toughen measures on registering and issuing license plates for ATVs in order to make it easier to catch illegal riders.