West Milford OKs RFP For ATV Park

July 2014 Powersport News By David M. Zimmer, Staff Writer, NorthJersey.com

The township is vetting the potential of opening an off-road park on public property to provide locals with a legal place to ride all-terrain vehicles. For now, places like Random Woods off Ridge Road provide the features riders are looking for, much to the ire of local residents who have to put up with the incessant noise of the machines. Local police have enacted a zero-tolerance policy for illegal riding on Random Woods, which includes possible vehicle confiscation.

Local representatives plan to take a page out of the state's playbook by soliciting insured operators to run an off-road park in town.

Specifically, West Milford's governing body recently authorized the distribution of a request for proposals (RFP) seeking an insured organization that would be willing to lease a municipal property for use as a park for all-terrain vehicles (ATVs). That way, the municipality would be able to have an off-road park without having to manage it or purchase insurance coverage to operate it, according to Township Attorney Fred Semrau.

"The state right now is doing the same thing," Semrau said. "It's a thought to try and bring this a step forward. Or maybe it would encourage the state to take note that the township has a great interest [in opening an off-road park]."

In recent weeks, West Milford Township representatives have explored the potential of opening an all-terrain vehicle park on municipal property. So far, however, the local government has faced some obstacles that it has found difficulty trying to surmount, most notably procuring insurance coverage, according to Councilman Lou Signorino.

"Right now, I can't say we've made a whole lot of progress, but it's in the works," Signorino said. "We need to find out what the interest is (in operating an ATV park in town) and what the viability is in that interest so we know what our options are."

Rather than reinvent the wheel, Semrau and Signorino said the township is likely to put out a request for proposals similar to that designed by the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection for the Mount Pleasant State Off-Road Vehicle Park in Cape May County. Acquired in November 2011 from the former Mount Pleasant Sand and Gravel Pit, the property features acres of terrain as well as a course from its old motocross track.

For now, the state runs the park on weekends in the warmer months. Riders must have their ATVs registered and insured and be at least 14 years old. Lights, reflectors, mufflers, helmets, and proper protective gear are all required. So is reporting all accidents that result in injury or property damage. Still, the state has been attempting to privatize the operation to free up resources, and Semrau said that strategy may be best for West Milford as well.

The RFP would not directly address the issue that begat the examination of a potential off-road park—the noise complaints stemming from illegal riding at the municipally owned Random Woods property off Ridge Road, Semrau said. However, it could lead to a solution to that problem by providing a more isolated, and legal, place to ride, he added.

This spring, local police initiated a crackdown on riding at the 99-acre site following a tide of complaints. Currently, local government officials are considering flattening the property's trails to further discourage riders and eliminate the existing liability.

"If we are seen as tolerating an attractive nuisance at a time when we absolutely know we are not insured for it, that would be a bad thing," Councilwoman CarlLa Horton said.

To create an off-road park, the local government would need to alter the town code to remove restrictions that bar vehicles from public properties. That, Horton said, would certainly have to involve a discussion of whether ATV riding on public property should be happening at all.

"This definitely should be happening because it's happening anyway," Signorino said referring to illegal riding in town.

Horton said she is more than willing to examine the option but added that she would want to avoid making Random Woods, with its existing features, an off-road park.

Semrau said if the township does not receive any proposals or even interest in its RFP, then the township may have hit a wall considering the difficulty the township has run into when seeking insurance to operate its own park. Semrau said his firm has spoken with two organizations that were intrigued by West Milford's discussions regarding an ATV park, but not intrigued enough to make a serious proposal.

Email: zimmer@northjersey.com

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