SCOTCH PLAINS – Dozens of local residents from different parts of Union County – mainly along the Watchung Reservation – turned out for a special discussion on Tuesday, May 2, at the Scotch Plains Council meeting to mostly voice their opposition against the county’s proposal to add 13.5 miles of mountain bike trails throughout the 2,000+ acre park. Union County Parks & Recreation Director Ron Zuber and Mike Brennan, who is in charge of the division of Union County park maintenance for Scotch Plains, outlined the proposal process in a 10-minute presentation before local residents took the stand to express their opinions.

The residents’ primary concerns included the potential impacts on the environment, balance of sharing trails between hikers and mountain bikers, hazards to bikers and ensuing lawsuits, and the protection of the integrity of the reservation. They accused mountain bikers of already disrupting the habitats of animals, some of which are endangered species. Though the residents cited hazardous trails that mountain bikers are already using, there are currently no organizations that are permitted to maintain the trails presently.

Jamie Meiselman, co-leader of the Union County Chapter of the Jersey Off Road Bicycle Association, addressed safety concerns that residents had on the proposed mountain bike trails. He explained the organization currently aids county, state and local park managers in the construction and maintenance of safe, sustainable mountain biking and mixed use trails in over 20 parks throughout New Jersey. He downplayed the perceived dangers of mountain biking.

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Scotch Plains Police Chief Ted Conley and Scotch Plains Rescue Squad Chief Dan Sullivan offered their insights to the Council and those in attendance. Their primary concerns were the safety of the trails and responding to injured patrons in the event of an emergency. The full discussion on the subject can be viewed here. (The clip starts at 27:45.)

While the Township of Scotch Plains does not hold jurisdiction of the Trails Master Plan, a vote on this is expected to take place at the Union County Freeholders’ meeting on Thursday, May 18.