Union County News

Union County Freeholders Vote Not to Approve Mountain Biking Trails in Watchung Reservation

c56ddb7c53a179048a46_IMG_7481.JPG
Summit's Mayor Nora Radest asks the board for a compromise to be reached following an engineering study and environmental impact study. Credits: Leah Scalzadonna
55c294d879312cbf032b_IMG_7483.JPG
The board amended a previous resolution approving the Watchung Reservation Master Plan to reflect the board's disapproval of recommending and providing for mountain biking in the Watchung Reservation. Credits: Leah Scalzadonna
c56ddb7c53a179048a46_IMG_7481.JPG

ELIZABETH, NJ – The Union County Board of Chosen Freeholders voted not to approve mountain biking trails proposed in the Watchung Reservation Master Plan at Thursday night’s meeting. The passing of Resolution 2017-412 effectively put an end to a months-long debate by county residents about the merits and hazards of creating mountain biking trails in the Watchung Reservation.

Forty-six people spoke before the board in an attempt to persuade a freeholder’s vote, with22 people speaking in favor of mountain biking and 24 people speaking against it. In compliance with fire safety codes, a 125-person limit was in place for the meeting. As people left the meeting, those waiting in the lobby came in to take their place.

“I don’t want anyone to think that we take what you say lightly,” Freeholder Linda Carter said. “We hear what you’re saying and we have to take a look at the total. Sometimes, in order to have a win-win, you have to take a step back.”

Sign Up for E-News

Those in favor of mountain bike trails frequently argued that the trails would have a minimal impact, would allow schools to create mountain biking teams and would bring in more county residents to the reservation, among other reasons. Those opposed often questioned how the trails would impact the environment, worried about the proposed trails’ proximity to their homes and the dangers of mountain biking, among other reasons.

The vote passed 5-3, with Freeholders Wright, Granados, Bergen, Kowalski and Carter voting “yes.” Freeholders Hudak, Estrada and Mirabella voted “no” and Freeholder Jallon abstaining.

Before the vote, Chairman Bruce H. Bergen gave an impassioned speech explaining his vote, stating that he believed the addition of mountain bike trails would harm the environment, the reservation itself and the county.

“We as a county are not doing enough to maintain the trails that already exist,” Bergen said. “For now, we must concentrate on maintenance, repair and, as appropriate, re-commissioning current trails. I disagree with the statement that the Watchung Reservation is under-utilized. I believe just the opposite.”

Fellow freeholders agreed that the reservation needs more maintenance and that an environmental impact study must be done before expanding trails inside the reservation. Freeholder Granados said that the current vote does not mean mountain biking cannot be put back on the agenda or that a compromise cannot be reached in the future.

The vote was met with jubilation by some, who cheered and congratulated one another and the board. Those who were in favor of mountain biking in the Watchung Reservation left quietly.

“You can’t be upset the teacher didn’t give you an ‘A’ because you didn’t do the book report yet,” Scotch Plains resident Eric Larnick said, using the analogy to explain why he believes the trails cannot be built without an environmental impact study being done beforehand. “The reservation is Union County’s last standing nature preserve. We have to put the work in.”

Mayor Nora Radest of Summit and Mayor Paul Mirabelli of Mountainside also spoke before the board, asking for a compromise to be reached between the differentiating parties.

“Surely, with a thoughtful discussion, a thorough engineering report and an environmental impact study, a compromise among all of these important constituencies will be possible,” Radest said.

The Union County Board of Chosen Freeholders will hold an agenda setting session and a regular meeting on May 25 at 7 p.m.

TAP Into Another Town's News:

Sign Up for E-News

Roselle/Roselle Park

Register by June 18 for Summer of Fun Camp in Roselle

June 16, 2018

ROSELLE, NJ - Get your kids ready for best eight weeks of their young lives, as Roselle presents the 2018 version of its summer fun camp for borough youngsters.

Under the direction of Recreation Director Donald Shaw, borough officials have put together eight weeks of fun, from outdoor adventures, to movies, to arts and crafts, to bowling to swimming. There are also visits to a lake and to a ...

Vitale Family to Hold “Alex's Lemonade Stand” Fundraiser

ROSELLE PARK, NJ - The Vitale Family in Roselle Park will be participating in "Alex's Lemonade Stand Foundation for Childhood Cancer" this Saturday, June 16. 

The Vitale family has a son Matteo who has pediatric cancer and they want to help raise awareness.

The family will have a lemonade stand in front of there home at 718 Chestnut Street in Roselle Park, to raise ...

Roselle Park Bulk Collection Company Experiencing Significant Delays

ROSELLE PARK, NJ - The Borough of Roselle Park's Bulk Waste Collection contractor is experiencing significant delays at the solid waste transfer station designated by the Union County Utilities Authority. 

Due to these disposal delays, residents should expect delayed pickups today and Friday, as applicable, and potentially through the weekend.

The Borough remains in close ...

Roselle PBA to Host 2nd Annual Free Softball Clinic

ROSELLE, NJ - The Roselle PBA will be hosting their 2nd Annual Free Softball Clinic at Sylvester Land Field for all ages and skill levels.

The clinic will be held on Tuesday, July 10. Youth ages 5 to 11 will be held from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. and ages 12 to 18 from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. 

While the event is primarily for girls, boys are also welcome to join in on the fun that will ...

Make Music Roselle Park Lineup Includes Rock Bands, Singer-songwriters, Free Harmonica Lesson

ROSELLE PARK, NJ - The lineup for the first-ever Make Music Roselle Park will include two rock bands, a pair of singer-songwriters, a free beginner harmonica lesson and more.

The event being held on June 21, Make Music Roselle Park is part of Make Music Day, a global music celebration that takes place on the summer solstice each year and brings people of all ages and skill ...

Freeholder Board Announces Launch of Free Farmers’ Market Vouchers for Seniors

ELIZABETH, NJ - The Union County Board of Chosen Freeholders has announced that the annual Farmers’ Market voucher program for seniors will begin again this summer. Starting on June 25, income-eligible adults age 60 and up can receive a total of $25 in free vouchers to purchase fresh produce at designated Farmers’ Markets throughout Union County.

The total of $25 is provided in $5 ...

Video: Union County Celebrates Pride Month with CommUNITY PRIDE Day Picnic

June 18, 2018

RAHWAY, NJ - Parents, children, friends, and all family members came out on Saturday afternoon to Rahway River Park for the Union County CommUNITY PRIDE Day Picnic.

The family-friendly celebration hosted by the Union County Board of Chosen Freeholders, was a day of fun activities of arts and crafts, family lawn games, inflatable bounce houses, playground fun and more, along with music by the ...

Gov. Murphy still pushing a millionaire's tax, won’t say when he'll sign sports betting, weed bills

June 11, 2018

NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ - With a showdown on the state budget looming just 22 days away, Gov. Phil Murphy today re-emphasized his call for a tax on the state’s wealthiest households while hoping to avoid another shutdown of state government.

“Do I still want a millionaire’s tax? The answer is ‘yes,’ “ Murphy said at a press conference at the John ...

Get Empowered to Help Prevent Suicide

June 9, 2018

Over the past week social media and the news have been filled with stories and articles encouraging people to seek help if they’re in emotional distress. There have been countless articles about the need to break the silence around the topic of mental health and suicide, and I am encouraged by the support people are extending to others.

Often, the death by suicide by prominent ...

Local at-risk youth celebrate year of achievements at Community Access Unlimited

June 18, 2018

Community Access Unlimited (CAU) last night celebrated the achievements of a number of at-risk youth who are members of the agency's Transitional Opportunities Program (TOP). Each of these youth are within New Jersey's child services system and faced a number of life challenges before coming to CAU and TOP and since then have made significant progress in plotting a brighter future with ...

The Woman in the Window by A.J. Finn

The Woman in the Window by A.J. Finn (William Morrow, 2018)

 

A friend, whose opinion on literature I respect greatly, reported to me recently that she had just finished reading A.J. Finn's debut novel, The Woman in the Window. Of it she said, “I wish I hadn't finished it,” which I interpreted to mean, “It was so good I'm sorry that I finished it.” ...