New Jersey Bill Would Create Three Off-Road Parks

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A bill before New Jersey Gov. Jon S. Corzine calls for the state to establish three public parks for off-road vehicles, a response to state law that bars off-roading on public lands.

If approved, the bill would require riders to register their dirtbikes or all-terrain vehicles within six months and would raise the fees from $12 or $17, depending on the type of vehicle, to $50 for all types, with a $10 surcharge to establish the parks, according to the Press of Atlantic City.

The proposal would also require license plates on dirt bikes and ATVs, and raise the fine for riders without a registration from $200 to $500. That’s expected to help with law enforcement because it would spare officers the need to pursue riders into the woods.

"Illegal riding causes $2 million in damage each year to our state parks. Farmers are finding damage to their private property. The Forest Service referred to unrestrained off-road vehicle use as the biggest challenge to the American landscape," state Sen. Bob Gordon, D-Bergen, who wrote the bill. He was initially against the provision providing riding parks on public land. That was added as an amendment.

"My personal view is the state isn't obligated to subsidize somebody's personal hobby," he said. "We attempted to reach a reasonable compromise with ATV enthusiasts."

The New Jersey Off-Road Vehicle Association supports the proposal. The group estimates the state has 250,000 off-road vehicles.

Finding three suitable sites for riding parks will be a challenge. Jaclyn Rhoads, policy director for the Pinelands Preservation Alliance, said the state Department of Environmental Protection tried and failed to find a suitable place for off-road vehicles in 2002. But she said the DEP will be more motivated this time because ther bill specifies the registration fees will be discontinued after three years if the state fails to find three parks.

Posted by Holly Wagner