Letters to the Editor

Save the Watchung Reservation


URGENT A group of aggressive mountain bike enthusiasts have pressured the Union County Parks Department and the Union County board of freeholders into creating 13 ½ miles of mostly new mountain bike only trails in the Watchung Reservation.

These trails are already being constructed – and to my knowledge without proper vetting, community notice and input and authorizations and approvals.

This is not something that can be done on a trial basis – once these trails are created it would take decades to undo the damage. The current Watchung Reservation trail design was laid out by the Olmstead office a century ago to preserve these landscapes and natural habitats for future generations.

Sign Up for E-News

We are the current stewards of this jewel of a natural park and have the responsibility to protect it from aggressive over development and damage for future generations.

The Watchung Reservation Trails Master plan and the proposed bike trail plan can be downloaded & viewed at:

It is urgent that all union county residents who want to know more about these plans and or are opposed to this development contact the county manager, the parks and recreation directors, and the freeholders immediately and attend the meetings at: Trailside Nature and Science Center in the Watchung Reservation 452 New Providence Road. Mountainside, New Jersey Tuesday March 7, 2017 at 7 p.m.

The next Freeholders meeting is this Thursday March 9, 2017 at 10 Elizabethtown Plaza, Elizabeth, NJ 07207

  • County Manager – Alfred Faella 908-289-4200 fax 908-289-0180
  • Parks Director – Ronald Zuber 908-527-4910 fax 908-527-4901 – call him first - I have been told that he has the sole authority to allow or not allow these trails to be created.
  • Park Facilities Director – Armando Sanchez 908-241-4011
  • Park Plan. & Env. Director – Daniel J. Bernier 908-789-3682 fax 908-789-3674
  • Freeholder Chairman – Bruce H. Bergen – 908-527-4110
  • Vice Chairman – Sergio Granados – 908-527-4112
  • Freeholder - Linda Carter – 908-527-4117
  • Freeholder - Angel G. Estrada – 908-527-4111
  • Freeholder - Christopher Hudak – 908-527-4116
  • Freeholder - Mohammed S. Jalloh – 908-527-4114
  • Freeholder - Bette Jane Kowalski – 908-527-4113
  • Freeholder - Alexander Mirabella – 908-527-4115
  • Freeholder - Vernell Wright – 908-527-4109

Mountain biking and hiking are incompatible. Too many hikers and bike riders have been injured sharing trails - particularly in heavily used parks in densely populated areas - The IMBA - International Mountain Bike Association also takes this position.

So the plan’s proponents propose a system of separate paths. There are numerous problems with this proposal. The proposed bike-only trails would develop most of the undeveloped forest preserve areas of the reservation, resulting in the loss of all the un-trafficked natural habitat areas.

They would destroy the forest vistas and woodland solitude. These undeveloped areas around the perimeter of the park present a forest wilderness to the hikers in the reservation and provide privacy for the homes at the perimeter.

These mountain bikers would disrupt wildlife habitat. There are threatened and endangered species in some of the areas marked for trails – the Barred Owl and Woodland Turtle among others.  An environmental impact study based upon this trail proposal needs to be performed.

I am a Mountain biker myself and I can attest from experience that most off road bikers are courteous and abide by the rules – but there are plenty of bikers who will be ‘bombing the woods’ going off trail and be on the equestrian and hiking only trails – they are constantly on these trails now. How can these trails be policed to keep bikes and pedestrians separate and keep bikers from cutting new trails?

There are mountain bikers beside myself who are opposed to this plan and are content riding in the 21 other New Jersey parks listed on the JORBA - Jersey Off Road Biking Association website that are in lower density population areas and are not as heavily used. Off road cycling is a dangerous activity.

Bikes were allowed for a trial period in the reservation in the 1990’s but was stopped after a few months due to trail damage and serious injuries.

The proposed bikeways include an elevation change of almost 200 feet in one area. There will be injuries. Who will provide and pay for rescue operations and the cost of defending lawsuits and paying judgments when Union County is sued by injured cyclists? Who will be using these trails?

Off road cyclists will come from all over the region. The Summit train station provides easy access to these proposed trails, meaning New York City off road cyclists may show up in large numbers to use the park. Where will those who come by car park? The current lots are often filled to capacity on weekends.

Who will pay for these trails? The Watchung Reservation Trails Master plan specifies that the cost to construct these trails properly will cost $11 per foot x 13.5 miles = $784,080.00.

Much of the proposed off road cycling trails run behind and close to homes in Summit, Berkeley Heights, Mountainside, Springfield and Scotch Plains, raising issues of privacy, tranquility, security and property values. Have the adjacent homeowners, police departments and neighborhood associations in these municipalities been notified or consulted?

The natural undeveloped areas of the Watchung Reservation should not be turned into an off road bike amusement park. The environmental impact of this and illegal bike use of the hiking and equestrian trails would be very destructive. Visit Washington Valley Park in Somerset County which allows bikes: footpaths have become wide characterless bikeways and hikers have mostly abandoned the park to the cyclists.

This extensive overdevelopment of the Watchung Reservation will destroy the natural beauty of this preserved landscape and diminish its appeal for all other users. It will harm the animals and plants that thrive in areas which are currently inaccessible and undeveloped. It will do irreversible damage to this rare and precious jewel of a protected wilderness.

William Toth - Union County NJ


The opinions expressed herein are the writer's alone, and do not reflect the opinions of or anyone who works for is not responsible for the accuracy of any of the information supplied by the writer. Click here to submit a Letter to the Editor.

TAP Into Another Town's News:

Sign Up for E-News


Travel Advisory - Air Travel, Rail, and Bus Service Set To Resume on Thursday, March 22

March 22, 2018

TAPintoTravels - Whenever there is inclement weather, it pays to keep informed.  Today, (Thursday, March 22), the FAA is reporting a normal return to service with less than 15 minute delays.  LaGuardia has reported that 90% of scheduled flights are scheduled to takeoff.  Newark Liberty is reporting that 180 flights are canceled.

NJ Transit is reporting a ...

Unity and purpose will allow Democrats to unseat Lance

March 11, 2018

In November, we have a chance to unseat Leonard Lance, Congressman for the NJ-7 district which includes Springfield. Leonard Lance voted to take away healthcare from his constituents and recently stood by as his party passed a tax plan in which his district became the second most negatively impacted district in the COUNTRY.  Lance is an enemy of a woman’s right to control her body but ...

Freeholders Endorse Armed Security in all Somerset County Schools

March 23, 2018

SOMERVILLE, NJ – Following the Parkland, Fla school shooting last month in which 17 students and staff were killed, Somerset County Freeholder Director Patrick Scaglione and Freeholder Mark Caliguire Thursday announced that the freeholder board will fund a second armed school resource officer at the county Vocational & Technical High School in Bridgewater, and urged every school ...

Temple Beth Ahm Yisrael Religious School Open House

March 23, 2018

Taste of Kochavim at Temple Beth Ahm Yisrael Religious School - April 29 - 12:30 p.m. to 1:30 p.m.

Do you know a child getting ready to enter kindergarten, first, or second grade?  Are you looking for an exciting and engaging Jewish educational experience that will get them tapping their toes, singing, and learning joyful Judaism?   Then Shorashim: the Religious School ...

Upcoming Events

Sat, March 24

Black Diamond Billiard's, Union

Ladies 9-Ball Pro-Am by the Garden State Pool Tour

Other Sports

Sat, March 24, 10:00 AM

Burent Middle School , Union

Union County Wide - March for Our Lives

Government Law & Justice

Sun, March 25, 8:00 AM

Trinity Episcopal Church,, Cranford

Palm/Passion Sunday Mass at Trinity Cranford – ...

Religions And Spirituality