Union County Freeholder Meeting March 8

Shorepoints

Well-Known Member
#1
Greetings all. There is a Union County Freeholder Meeting March 8 at 7:30pm. I plan to go to let the Freeholders know that we have not disappeared and we are expecting them to follow up on their promises to re-visit the issue of legal trails in Union County. Now I know many of you have absolutely zero faith in the County after the Watchung debacle, and your reservations are justified. That said, since nothing is legal in the County, we have nothing to lose to keep pushing for legal trails in the County. I have been in contact with the new Freeholder Chair Grenados. He has been responsive to me but has not offered much in the way of detail other than they have formed a "trails committee" which is focusing on hiking/horses for now and they will revisit MTB when the trails committee reports its findings. There is no JORBA or MTB input on this committee, and no timeline, or any additional detail. Basically the County has done nothing in the past year regarding MTB and they likely won't unless we press the issue. So if anyone would like to join me on March 8 and speak during the public comment portion, I'd love the company. One thing we learned from the past is the Freeholders only respond if we "pack the room" and continue to pack it.
 

jimvreeland

Shop: Hilltop Bicycles
Shop Keep
#3
Don’t forget the check book.
You don't have a check book deep enough to counter the folks who are against MTB. Also, hate to say it, but JORBA's name attached to anything around here will immediately get shot down. We've made good progress here in Summit and have access to land but haven't started digging yet, should start as soon as the weather finally breaks.
 

Shorepoints

Well-Known Member
#4
You don't have a check book deep enough to counter the folks who are against MTB. Also, hate to say it, but JORBA's name attached to anything around here will immediately get shot down. We've made good progress here in Summit and have access to land but haven't started digging yet, should start as soon as the weather finally breaks.
Jim, I should preface this by saying we are also making really good progress locally in Westfield with two sites and should be digging soon as well. I am stoked you are doing the same in Summit, and anyone out there in UC should be trying to make inroads with your towns to make trails, as small as they may be. This is the strategy we outlined at our UC JORBA meeting last Spring. These "local" spots are a great start for riding legally in the County and give JORBA and/or the MTB community some track record when we take on the bigger sites. God knows who is really pulling the strings behind the Freeholders (if this is indeed the case), but quite frankly the decision they made last May was straight-up WRONG and my conscience won't let go of the injustice. We have got to keep pushing.
 

terrabike01

Well-Known Member
#5
Jim, I should preface this by saying we are also making really good progress locally in Westfield with two sites and should be digging soon as well. I am stoked you are doing the same in Summit, and anyone out there in UC should be trying to make inroads with your towns to make trails, as small as they may be. This is the strategy we outlined at our UC JORBA meeting last Spring. These "local" spots are a great start for riding legally in the County and give JORBA and/or the MTB community some track record when we take on the bigger sites. God knows who is really pulling the strings behind the Freeholders (if this is indeed the case), but quite frankly the decision they made last May was straight-up WRONG and my conscience won't let go of the injustice. We have got to keep pushing.
In my opinion, why bother stirring the pot pertaining to the "bigger site". Until the Freeholders that are opposing it are gone, nothing will change. All it's going to do is get everyone all worked up again. You seen what happened last year.
 

The Kalmyk

Well-Known Member
#6
In my opinion, why bother stirring the pot pertaining to the "bigger site". Until the Freeholders that are opposing it are gone, nothing will change. All it's going to do is get everyone all worked up again. You seen what happened last year.

Great point.


Just an FYI. Dealing with governmental bodies is similar to dealing with family in someways. Just seeing family on holidays or big events isn’t really a good relationship model.

Same goes for the UCF. If they only hear from you twice a year and then you are going to hammer your agenda- good luck with that. Seriously, you will never win if your pitch is one sided sale.
 
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Shorepoints

Well-Known Member
#7
Great point.


Just an FYI. Dealing with governmental bodies is similar to dealing with family in someways. Just seeing family on holidays or big events isn’t really what a good relationship model.

Same goes for the UCF. If they only hear from you twice a year and then you are going to hammer your agenda- good luck with that. Seriously, you will never win if your pitch is one sided sale.
Kalmyk I agree with you. The relationship with the County has been dysfunctional, but not for lack of trying on our part. Actually this is the entire point of our lobbying. Our message to the County has been consistent from Day 1: we would like to have a working relationship with you so that MTB trails can be implemented with all stakeholder input and transparency. They have failed miserably at transparency and getting all stakeholders to the table. It is a shameful way to run government. They are making big decisions behind closed doors, rather than bringing stakeholders together to work out a solution. This is how Watchung should have been handled and this is how any future efforts SHOULD be handled. This is what we are asking for. It is as much about getting them to change how they handle these issues as it is about legal bike trails. Believe me, I know this is going to be a possible exercise in futility, but again, on principle I cannot allow them to get away with what they did with Watchung and think it was the right thing to do.

All of the Freeholders who voted against MTB did so with a caveat that the issue needs to be looked at again. Go look at the tape from the meeting (May 24, 2017). But I'll quote Granados (now the chairman): "No one is saying that in a couple months from now, or a year from now, that this can't be put back on the agenda."
 

jimvreeland

Shop: Hilltop Bicycles
Shop Keep
#8
In my opinion, why bother stirring the pot pertaining to the "bigger site". Until the Freeholders that are opposing it are gone, nothing will change. All it's going to do is get everyone all worked up again. You seen what happened last year.
I agree with this 100%. The locals that actually use the park have found harmony again and I want nothing to do with stirring that pot.
 

terrabike01

Well-Known Member
#10
Kalmyk I agree with you. The relationship with the County has been dysfunctional, but not for lack of trying on our part. Actually this is the entire point of our lobbying. Our message to the County has been consistent from Day 1: we would like to have a working relationship with you so that MTB trails can be implemented with all stakeholder input and transparency. They have failed miserably at transparency and getting all stakeholders to the table. It is a shameful way to run government. They are making big decisions behind closed doors, rather than bringing stakeholders together to work out a solution. This is how Watchung should have been handled and this is how any future efforts SHOULD be handled. This is what we are asking for. It is as much about getting them to change how they handle these issues as it is about legal bike trails. Believe me, I know this is going to be a possible exercise in futility, but again, on principle I cannot allow them to get away with what they did with Watchung and think it was the right thing to do.

All of the Freeholders who voted against MTB did so with a caveat that the issue needs to be looked at again. Go look at the tape from the meeting (May 24, 2017). But I'll quote Granados (now the chairman): "No one is saying that in a couple months from now, or a year from now, that this can't be put back on the agenda."
You ever hear the expression "its like talking to a rock"? Well the opposing Freeholders are rocks.
And as far as "looking at the issue again" that's just another meaning for we are going to kick the can down the road like every other politician in NJ has done. Only new blood will bring change.
 

The Kalmyk

Well-Known Member
#11
You ever hear the expression "its like talking to a rock"? Well the opposing Freeholders are rocks.
And as far as "looking at the issue again" that's just another meaning for we are going to kick the can down the road like every other politician in NJ has done. Only new blood will bring change.
So what was the original pitch to the freeholders?
 

Shorepoints

Well-Known Member
#12
So what was the original pitch to the freeholders?
Let's be clear: we were agonizing close to a 15-mile all-new MTB trail in Watchung a year ago. Myself and several other guys put in literally hundreds of man-hours scoping, flagging, and rough clearing a sick trail network there with the full blessing and support of UC Parks. Ron Zuber (Parks Director) was very much in our court and hired Mark Stallone (rider/retired cop) to oversee the entire trail building effort. We had 70+ JORBA volunteers signed up to build before the County literally put the brakes on two nights before trail building was set to begin. If you wander into the woods you will still see many of those flags, and I have GPS coordinates for the entire network. The terrain and layout was insanely fun with a diverse blend of rock, flow, climbs, and descents and it would have been one of the best trail networks in the state.

It's not like the County is dead-set against this. Recall that this was a 5-3-1 Split Decision by the Freeholders in last May's vote, and this was the first time in DECADES that they had a vote that wasn't unanimous. I know this may seem like the impossible dream, but it's really a question of getting it back on the agenda, and swaying 2 Freeholders to change their mind. Of the 5 that voted against it, 1 has retired, 1 (Betty Jane K) will likely never change her mind, and the other 4 (Bergen, Granados, Carter, Jalloh) all expressed willingness to revisit the issue. The new blood (Garretson) is an unknown since she is new.

The Freeholders/County are not this big, bad monster that hates MTB. It is really just a question of continuing to show them demand for the amenity and insuring they stay true to their word to revisit the issue and get it back on the agenda. If enough of us show up, and continue to show up, they will put it back on the agenda.
 

Xler8

Active Member
#13
Too many people these days throw their hands up and say f'it. And the people making the final decisions are counting on that exact outcome. If you believe there's a better way then you need to keep at it. As discouraging and broken as the federal, state, and local government systems are, it's up to the general public to speak up and voice for change.
 

KenS

JORBA: Director
JORBA.ORG
#14
I am not sure where the disdain for JORBA in this thread came from. UC invited us (JORBA) to the table as stakeholders in the Watchung Reservation master plan, we didn't ask. We put our best effort into the process, for over two years. We established a chapter full of dedicated folks working to establish legal trails, but eventually failed because of a concentrated political effort from an opposition group.

Reading some comments here and around our "community", knowing the years and hours dedicated to the cause in UC and around the state, is a complete bummer.
 

Shorepoints

Well-Known Member
#16
It sounds wonderfully optimistic but until the folks that live in the surrounded area, all 100% opposed, it isn't happening.
Jim 100% is a gross/inaccurate generalization. We have riders/JORBA members who literally live adjacent to the Reservation. Regardless, we are not necessarily trying to just re-open the Watchung Case but also pursue alternative sites such as Hidden Valley and Houdaille which don't have the baggage of Watchung.
 

jimvreeland

Shop: Hilltop Bicycles
Shop Keep
#17
Jim 100% is a gross/inaccurate generalization. We have riders/JORBA members who literally live adjacent to the Reservation. Regardless, we are not necessarily trying to just re-open the Watchung Case but also pursue alternative sites such as Hidden Valley and Houdaille which don't have the baggage of Watchung.
Hidden Valley and Houdaille have been approved months ago as well as a rail trail project. We've been putting in work up here and have made progress without stirring the Big Pot. Stirring the big pot will definitely get anything we've worked towards shut down.
 

Shorepoints

Well-Known Member
#18
Hidden Valley and Houdaille have been approved months ago as well as a rail trail project. We've been putting in work up here and have made progress without stirring the Big Pot. Stirring the big pot will definitely get anything we've worked towards shut down.
If this is the case, why is the County keeping it a secret? We proposed these sites to the County last June. The County has made no mention of approving these sites to me in their responses (only that they are "looking at it"). If you are more comfortable taking this offline feel free to call me. 646-286-3054
 

fidodie

Well-Known Member
Staff member
#19
i'm going to throw my support behind the UC Jorba chapter people. They are not going in there to say "I'm Back!" - i'm sure there will be a plan
to let them know they are still there, not a threat. Perhaps they'd just like to read out on progress at other places - "to keep them in the loop"
and show them how this type of project progresses. it doesn't have to be about driving in a wedge, and grabbing the bigger side.
While there might be animosity, the high road, and the process are probably the way to go. it goes a long way towards smoothing things out.
I'm sure they are watching. Best to get the info first hand.
 

jimvreeland

Shop: Hilltop Bicycles
Shop Keep
#20
If this is the case, why is the County keeping it a secret? We proposed these sites to the County last June. The County has made no mention of approving these sites to me in their responses (only that they are "looking at it"). If you are more comfortable taking this offline feel free to call me. 646-286-3054
We're not working with the County. I'll text you.