VIDEO: Hikers Give Feedback on Mountain Biking in Watchung Reservation at Public Meeting

Signs indicating no biking allowed Credits: Jennifer Popper
William Toth, Plainfield
Ron Zuber, Dir. of Union County Parks, and Kevin Campbell, Assistant City Council Presiding Officer/Parliamentarian, in his words Credits: Jennifer Popper
Megan Stanley of CME, or Consulting and Municipal Engineers Credits: Jennifer Popper
Chris Black of Roselle Park Credits: Jennifer Popper
Flags placed in Watchung Reservation Credits: Jennifer Popper
Flags that were placed not far from residences Credits: Jennifer Popper

MOUNTAINSIDE, NJ - The County of Union held a public meeting for input on its Trails Master Plan, which will create new trails and open Watchung Reservation to 13.5 miles for mountain bikers.

The three-hour meeting attracted around 300 people from both sides of the conversation, but it was hikers, runners, wildlife enthusiasts, and neighboring home owners who mostly expressed their concerns because mountain bikers had done so at a meeting held in late 2016.

Currently, biking is not allowed in Watchung Reservation.

Sign Up for E-News

The crowd was instructed to keep their comments to three minutes, and was informed that the meeting was being recorded.  Additionally, there were Union County police on hand.

Charles Weltner of Plainfield came to the microphone, and noted that when the Master Planpdf was first conceived by Consulting & Municipal Engineers, or CME, mountain biking trails were only to be at one end of reservation, with the eastern end left untouched.  In December, the plan was amended.  The new trails are biker only trails that will extend over thirteen miles. 

Yet, as Weltner stated, the engineering firm only interviewed mountain bikers for their input.  They did not interview adjacent land owners, hikers, trail stewards, nature students, environmentalists or birders.

He questioned what effect the plan will have on wildlife and threatened species.  And at that point, he hoisted a blow-up he had prepared with the proposed new bike trails superimposed over wildlife ones, highlighting  threatened habitats. 

Other topics Weltner raised included asking what number of bikes the county should expect to utilize the park, and how they would be policed, items echoed by others who spoke.


Bill Nierstadt of Garwood, who is also Plainfield's Director of the Planning Division, noted:

  • Union County is the third densest county in New Jersey, and the fifteenth in the United States. 
  • The reservation is managed for the preservation of its natural resources. 
  • The two wildlife crossings were required as part of Rt 78's construction, neither of which were meant to be mountain bike crossings. 
  • His concern about maintenance costs.

After a bit of a ruckus, Union County Freeholder Chairman Bruce Bergen took to the stage and addressed the crowd, apologizing that people didn't know about this meeting with enough advance notice.  He announced that comments can be made on the county's website.  He took no questions, and left.

Other speakers included Evan Michelson of "Oddities," the East Village shop which trades in antiques and other rarities.  She said Watchung Reserve is a place for peace, a place to escape. 

Jennifer, a Summit resident, spoke to her city officials after she found out about the meeting, and they knew nothing of it.

Chris Rinaldi of Berkeley Heights quoted the Freeholders website, "...the nearly 2,200-acre Watchung Reservation, the crown jewel of the Parks system..."

Barbara Krause of Cranford wanted to know if the Department of Environmental Protection has been notified, and asked how Routes 22 and 78 will be impacted.  She stressed that the public land project that was planned out by the Olmsteads was a reservation, not a park.

Robert Muska of Berkeley Heights stated that the last time mountain bikers were allowed in the reservation it ended in failure for two reasons - no enforcement, and lack of maintenance.  He questioned why it would be different this time.

There were similar themes that ran through the night - lack of communication by the County of Union, impact on homeowners who live near the park, including property taxes and bikers who would be traveling so close to their property lines, erosion of trails and effects on wildlife and trees.

The County Manager and the Freeholders will act as a team in next steps.

The next Freeholders meeting is on Thursday, March 9th at 7:00 pm.  It will be held in the Freeholders’ Meeting Room, Administration Building, 10 Elizabethtown Plaza, 6th Floor, Elizabeth.  The public is invited to attend.

TAP Into Another Town's News:

You May Also Be Interested In

Sign Up for E-News

Berkeley Heights

Berkeley Heights’ Women of the Week (WoW) Series features Beth Ferris Sale

March 18, 2018

In honor of the women who are driving change, blazing trails and nurturing society, the Berkeley Heights Diversity Council is pleased to announce an exciting initiative called, Women of the Week (WoW) Series. In the spirit of community, we wanted to honor the women right here in Berkeley Heights who are impacting the world in their own way for the remaining weeks of Women’s History ...

Local Top Cops, Government Officials Helping 'March for Meals' Program

March 19, 2018

SUMMIT, NJ - Elected and Law Enforcement officials along with volunteers are joining SAGE Eldercare this month as it participates in the 16th annual March for Meals – a month-long, nationwide partnership of local community organizations, businesses, government officials and caring individuals, who come together to ensure that homebound and ...

Union County Students to 'March for Our Lives' Saturday in Union

UNION, NJ – Students from all over Union County will be walking from Burnet Middle School to Town Hall on Saturday morning, March 24, in an anti-gun violence march.

Led by steering committee chairman Colin Sumner, the march, which has the support of Senator Joseph Cryan, Moms Demand Action, Union County Chapter, and the Union County Freeholders, is not aimed at taking away guns, but ...

2018 Gov. Livingston Highlander Softball Clinic Set for March 19

Come join and learn from the 2017 Union County Softball Champion Gov. Livingston coaches and varsity players on Monday, March 19, 2018 from 6:30 to 8 p.m.

Activities will include the following fastpitch softball skills:

Batting Techniques
Throwing Mechanics
Base Running

Who: Children grades 1-7 of any skill level or ability

Where: Gov. Livingston High School, 175 ...

Mount Carmel Breakfast with the Easter Bunny, Sunday, March 25

BERKELEY HEIGHTS, NJ - Mount Carmel Society is hosting a Breakfast with the Easter Bunny on Sunday, March 25 from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. at 56 River Road in Berkeley Heights with an Easter Egg Hunt at 11 a.m. (weather permitting).

The all you can eat buffet includes pancakes, eggs, bacon, sausage, bagels, donuts and muffins and a cash bar will serve Mimosas and Bloody ...

NPHS Student's Response to After School Walk-out Plan at NPHS

March 14, 2018

A group of students file into a science classroom amid a nervous din of chatter, the air is electric with excitement and nervousness. This small group of approximately 30 students are a studious bunch, largely members of the sophomore class with squeaky clean administrative histories. They are currently preparing to defy authority and stand up for what they believe in, even though they had been ...

New Providence's Allen W. Roberts School Gets Security Walk Through by Police Department after Bomb Threat

March 12, 2018

NEW PROVIDENCE, NJ - The New Providence Police Department sent a letter to parents and guardians of students at Allen W. Roberts Elementary School after a non-specific bomb threat was reported on Monday afternoon.

It's the second threat  reported at a New Providence school in March. The first threat was reported on March 5th at New Providence High School.

Emergency ...

Avon Loses Its Last ‘Grand’ Hotel to the Claw of an Excavator

March 17, 2018

AVON-BY-THE-SEA, NJ — In less than two days, an Avon-by-the-Sea landmark that stood for 130 years was reduced to a huge pile of rubble. The Norwood Inn no longer stands on the corner of Norwood and Second Avenues — the last of the stately hotels that once graced the streets of Avon.

As onlookers gathered around the demolition site on March 15 and March 16, an excavator clawed its ...

Upcoming Events

Tue, March 20, 7:30 PM

Mountain Park School, Berkeley Heights

Boy Scout Open House - Troop 368

Education Giving Back

Wed, March 21, 5:30 PM

Great Swamp Watershed Association, Morristown

Coffee & Tea Tasting - FREE GSWA Event

Arts & Entertainment Education Food & Drink

Wed, March 21, 7:00 PM

Summit Free Public Library, Summit

increase your networking and interviewing iq

Business & Finance Other

Thu, March 22, 7:00 PM

Summit Free Public Library, Summit

The Long march home: An American Soldier's Life ...

Education Other


Fri, March 23, 9:30 AM

Dunkin Donuts, Berkeley Heights

Let’s Meet Up to Clean Up! BH Walks, a New ...


JCP&L Representative Describes Utility’s Actions During Storm Quinn, Answers Residents' Questions

BERKELEY HEIGHTS, NJ – The format of this week’s  Berkeley Heights 'Here and Now' was turned on its head this week. Mayor Bob Woodruff reviewed what happened in the township following Storm Quinn and its predecessor Storm Riley, complete with statistics. He then asked a representative of JCP&L questions about the utility’s response, and how it was ...

Berkeley Heights, Here and Now: Redevelopment Updates

BERKELEY HEIGHTS, NJ - The Mayor's Round Table has been rebranded to "Berkeley Heights, Here and Now." This new format will continue to provide updates from Mayor Bob Woodruff, municipal offices and the Communications Committee want to hear from citizens, businesses and community organizations.

Included in this episode, Mayor Bob Woodruff addresses the status of the ...

Dear Susan: Beauty Tips from a Beauty Expert, Spring Edition

SUSAN BARBAGLIA, owner of Skin Deep Salon and Spa in New Providence, offers a wealth of knowledge and expertise as a leader in the beauty industry. With over thirty years experience in skin care, Susan can answer your most challenging beauty questions. Email your ...

You Want a Check for How Much!

 My first admissions gig was working for a small liberal arts college with a pretty hefty price tag.  Picture me at a college fair: name tag in place, pile of brochures ready to go.  An eager family would walk up and we’d start a conversation.  One of the first questions I’d get from parents was about cost and the moment that $50,000-plus figure left my mouth I ...

Now That The Dust Has Settled…Smart Tax Moves In 2018

Now that the dust has settled, here are some smart tax moves to lower your taxes and/or avoid higher taxes/penalties in 2018. These steps may be especially helpful if you live in high property and high income tax states (e.g. New Jersey, New York, California) since state and local tax deductions are capped.  Unfortunately all these changes mean you’ll need more time and energy to ...