In recent virtual public meetings, the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection has floated the creation of permits for using the roads in Wharton State Forest.
In recent virtual public meetings, the NJ DEP has floated the creation of permits for using the roads in Wharton State Forest. District 8 lawmakers chastised the DEP for holding virtual meetings on such an important topic to the people of their district. (NJ Division of Parks & Forestry)
“Visitors and residents of the Pine Barrens have never had to pay to use the roads in Wharton State Forest and shouldn’t have to at any point moving forward,” said 8th Legislative District Senator Jean Stanfield. “This is government overreach and something that New Jersey residents already pay for with their highest-in-the-nation taxes.”
Stanfield and her assembly counterparts, Assemblyman Michael Torrissi and Assemblyman Brandon Umba, chastised the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) for holding virtual meetings on such an important topic to the people of their district.
“If the state thinks paid-for vehicle permits are what’s best for the users of Wharton State Forest, then it should hold in-person, public meetings and face the people. But I guarantee you, you’re going to see a bunch of pissed-off Pineys come out to give them a piece of their minds,” Torrissi said.
The first virtual meeting was held on September 27, where the DEP announced intentions to create a mandatory permitting system for vehicles that use the 125,000-acre park’s giant interconnection of dirt and marked roads.
The Department has stated it envisions a system at Wharton similar to the Mobile Sport Fishing Permit system at Island Beach State Park, which mandates residents pay $195 annually for vehicle access to the park in order to fish.
“This not only affects drivers who drive the park for recreational use, but hunters and fishermen who use their vehicles as a means of getting to proper locations. This plan needs to be shut down, and I urge all residents to voice their opinion on it, one way or the other,” said Umba.
Residents can write a message to the DEP by using its contact page here – https://www.state.nj.us/cgi-bin/dep/contactdep_general.pl
Or fill out its park use survey here – https://nj.gov/dep/parksandforests/wharton/