Union County News

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 Tuesday 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 enthusiastsnand 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.  Union County police were 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 13 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 15th 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 9 at 7 p.m.  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


Union Man Sentenced to 25 Years for Fatally Stabbing Father

March 19, 2018

UNION, NJ – The Union man accused of stabbing his father to death and setting the home on fire last May has been sentenced to 25 years in state prison, announced acting Union County Prosecutor Michael A. Monahan on Monday.

Jeffrey Adams, 21, must serve at least 85 percent of that term before the possibility of parole, in accordance with New Jersey’s No Early Release Act, under the ...

Mayor Brindle’s Update, Feb. 13

March 14, 2018

The following are highlights from the update that Mayor Shelley Brindle gave at Tuesday night’s town council meeting.

Last week’s back to back nor’easters left a wave of destruction that Westfield hasn’t experienced since Hurricane Sandy in 2012. Three thousand homes lost power. Over 40 roads were closed due to downed wires and/or trees. Our police responded to ...

Upcoming Events


Fri, March 23, 12:00 PM

Resolve, Scotch Plains

Free Teen Anxiety Group (Ages 14-17) at Resolve

Sat, March 24, 10:00 AM

Burent Middle School , Union

Union County Wide - March for Our Lives

Government Law & Justice


Sun, March 25, 11:00 AM

Shackamaxon Country Club, Scotch Plains

Hear Our Voices: MemoryCare Plays

Health & Wellness

Westfield Police Blotter: DWI, Reported Fraud & More

March 14, 2018

March 7, 2018 2:06 a.m.

Carlos C. Mendoza, age 33, of Garwood, NJ, was arrested on the strength of three Westfield Municipal Court warrants ($750) pursuant to a traffic stop in the area of South Avenue in Scotch Plains. Subject was transported to Westfield Police HQ where he was processed and refused after posting bail.


March 9, 2018 2:09 p.m.

A resident of Sandra Circle ...

Christopher Dean Band to Play at Westfield Memorial Library

March 19, 2018

The Christopher Dean Band will play at the Westfield Memorial Library on Wednesday, April 4 at 7:00 p.m. The library is located at 550 East Broad Street.

The Christopher Dean Band is a regional blues/soul band based out of the Central New Jersey area, working up and down the East coast year round. Christopher Dean fronts the group, playing guitar and singing lead vocals.

Dean, who was ...

Gratitude Goes to the Girls! Mindful Monday Series - # 1

March 19, 2018

I am thrilled to launch our first edition of "Mindful Mondays" today!  Why Mindful Mondays? After several years of working with individuals in a variety of settings, many have asked me: "What's all this mindfulness about anyway?"  I often respond with, "It's different for everyone," but in general I begin with this definition ...

16 Homes Sold Last Week in Westfield, Scotch Plains, Fanwood, Mountainside & Cranford

Sixteen homes sold last week, March 11 to March 18, 2018, in Westfield, Scotch Plains, Fanwood, Mountainside and Cranford:*


TOWN        ADDRESS                  STYLE           RMS    ...

Charitable Spirit Alive and Well in Westfield Public Schools

Students, staff and parents in Westfield Public Schools continue the district’s long tradition of helping others both in and outside of the community, with a number of students recently recognized for their efforts.

Fifteen Westfield High School juniors and sophomores were honored by the Community Food Bank of New Jersey for collecting more than 5,000 pounds of food items for families in ...


AtlantiCast: Episode 13

On this episode of AtlantiCast, new clinical studies in the fields of cardiology and immunotherapy, national and statewide recognitions for Atlantic Health System medical centers and the inaugural AtlantiCast Collab Challenge!


The Day After

Some years ago, the United Nations held the International Summit on Sustainable Development, here in Johannesburg. The Summit was a great success. One wonders, though, whether all the wonderful decisions and resolutions that were adopted were ever implemented. In other words, were they themselves sustainable?

Good ideas and worthwhile projects are suggested regularly. The question is, do they ...

'Trying' explores age, youth and points of history in poignant production

‘Trying’ explores youth, age and points of history in poignant production

By Liz Keill

NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ – The George Street Playhouse presents an engrossing, two-character play based on the real life of Francis Biddle, former Attorney General.

Biddle, a Harvard educated lawyer, served under Franklin Roosevelt and later Harry Truman during the Nuremberg Tribunal. His ...

Profit from Recent Volatility with Stock Market Bargains

Markets retreated in February, the worst down month in two years. A record surge in volatility caused several ETFs designed as leveraged bets on low volatility to plunge, with at least one being forced to liquidate and hand its investors a near total loss.

The Causes of February’s Market Retreat

The initial catalyst for the sell off was inflation. The January jobs report showed ...


Kathleen Marie Christian (nee Helmstetter), age 73 of Surf City, NJ, passed away peacefully at home ...
Read more

Suspended Hillsborough HS Athletic Director Charged with Theft

March 19, 2018

HILLSBOROUGH, NJ — Suspended Hillsborough High School Athletic Director Michael Fanizzi has been arrested and charged with the theft of $10,704 in athletic event receipts over a four-year period from 2013-2017, according to Somerset County Prosecutor Michael H. Robertson.

Fanizzi, 53, a resident of Conover Way in Hillsborough who had been athletics director for 14 years, had been ...