650 plus Trees Marked with Paint at RCP

12/8/2017
Over 650 Trees Marked with Yellow Paint at Rifle Camp Park
(NOTE: These photos are in the Public Domain, and are available for reuse by media or individuals.)

Last week many small trees were found marked with yellow paint in the areas of proposed disc golf fairways. The marks are low to the ground and not visible from the trails. It now appears that over 650 young trees have been marked in this manner.

A number of small trees have also been pushed down as directional markers between holes. Some downed trees also appear to have been cut by an axe.

The Park Director was notified about the markings last week.
To date the only reply back has been that they are looking into it.

Trees Marked with Yellow Paint at Rifle Camp Park
[HIGH RESOLUTION]

Tree Stump Showing Axe Marks
Pushed-Down Trees as Directional Markers between Disc Golf Holes

More Trees Marked with Yellow Paint
[HIGH RESOLUTION]

Letter from Jeff Tittel, NJ Sierra Club

9/26/2017
Jeff Tittel, Director of the New Jersey Sierra Club released the following statement:

“We are asking the Passaic County Freeholders to turn down the proposal for a Disc Golf Course at Rifle Camp Park or find another alternative. Before you go forward with a proposal to clear-cut a forest, you should look at alternatives. So far, the Freeholders have failed to look at any other options other than to turn the park into a single use for a disc golf course. The problem is there are many other sites they can have a Disc Course on like the Preakness Valley Golf Course or other County owned sites. Instead, if they move forward they will be changing the use of Rifle Camp to a single use, which cannot be enjoyed by everyone. This is an outrageous sellout of public parkland that belongs to all of us. The Freeholders need to listen to the people they represent and put this Disc Golf Course somewhere more appropriate that doesn’t destroy open space and limit public access.”

“The proposal to have a Disc Golf Course at Rifle Camp Park is completely inappropriate. This park is the county’s second most visited park and is held in the public trust. This proposal is about selling recreational equipment, not keeping open space. The problem is they want to change the use of the park, while birders, hikers, people walking their dog can no longer use it. This proposal is a step towards privatization that keeps people out of a public park that should be for everyone. The next thing we know, our parks will turn into theme parks.”

“Without voting on the project, or having a public hearing which is required by Green Acres, the County is unilaterally moving forward without public input. That means the County can begin clear-cutting areas of the park at any time. We should preserve undeveloped open spaces such as this one. If they turn the park into a disc course there will be impacts to wildlife habitat as well as wetlands. There will also be additional runoff from clear-cutting the trees, which will cause more flooding and pollution.”

“The Freeholders must move this proposal to another site, especially when there are clear alternatives. This existing Golf Course has plenty of space that does not require clear-cutting for the Disc Course within its 377 acres. There is also a fully-staff equipment store, restaurant, and bar. This land was purchased in the public trust and the Freeholders should not violate that trust. We need them to move this proposal to the Preakness Valley Golf Course, which makes much more sense and does not destroy our environmentally sensitive areas and open space.”

Letter of Support from the League of Humane Voters of New Jersey


Voters who care about animals and the environment.
League of Humane Voters of New Jersey • PO Box 17 • Manalapan NJ 07726
• www.lohvnj.org • info@lohvnj.org

Dear Passaic County Freeholders:

The League of Humane Voters of New Jersey represents thousands of Passaic County residents who stand up for environmental and animal protection issues. LOHV-NJ members vote for local representatives who recognize the important of protecting our environmental resources.
LOHV-NJ is now part of the Save Rifle Camp Park Coalition, a growing body of groups and individuals opposed to the development of Rifle Camp Park into an 18-hole disc golf course.

LOHV-NJ urges the Freeholders to use their good judgement and stop the destruction of Rifle Camp Park. The opportunity to do what is right is within your purview and civic responsibility. Please make protecting this precious resource your lasting legacy.

To do otherwise, would violate your public duty and pose serious consequences for the park. The Parks, Recreation and Open Space Master Plan does not allow for this type of development. Furthermore, there is no need for a disc golf facility in this park with so many others in the state.
The danger of disc golfing cannot be understated. The discs can dismember and harm people and animals, in addition to destroying the natural beauty of Rifle Camp Park.

LOHV-NJ strongly recommends that the Passaic County Freeholders abandon the proposed disc golf course at Rifle Camp Park.
Thank you for considering LOHV-NJ’s recommendation.

Sincerely,
Julie O’Connor

Regional Legislative District Director

Pros and Cons – Adding Disc Golf to a Golf Course

We have identified a solution that will satisfy the needs of Disc Golfers in Passaic County while preserving the natural areas of Rifle Camp Park:

Add a disk golf course to the largest County park in lower Passaic County – Preakness Valley Golf Course!


(Download a PDF copy.)

PRO: Why the Disc Golf Course belongs at Passaic County’s Preakness Valley Golf Course

There is convenient access by local transit. (Bus) https://www.njtransit.com/pdf/bus/T1196.pdf

The site is fully landscaped, and disc golf can be installed immediately. The course could be cleaned and kept neat by the same staff that already maintain the golf course. Disc golf requires no specific landscaping and can be set up in any cleared area. http://www.preaknessvalleygolf.com/

There is already a fully staffed Pro Shop. Kiosk packages for disc golf paraphernalia are available to serve disc golfers alongside regular golf patrons. www.stevewestdiscgolf.com/DiscGolf.pdf

The site includes a restaurant and bar, which can make going there pleasant and desirable.
http://www.preaknessvalleygolf.com/barandgrill/

Restrooms, cart rental, and other facilities already exist. http://www.preaknessvalleygolf.com/aboutus/facilities/

Nobody is allowed to hike or walk on the golf course, which is also a restriction on an active disc golf course. Passers-by wandering onto the disc golf course will not be a problem. http://nynjctbotany.org/njnbtofc/preaknes.html

The installation of a disc golf course on the outskirts of an existing golf course is considered a desirable use of otherwise unused land, and many guides can be found detailing this configuration.
https://www.discgolf.com/disc-golf-education-development/disc-golf-course-design/disc-golf-course-design-economic-summary/
www.stevewestdiscgolf.com/DiscGolf.pdf
https://www.innovadiscs.com/course-development/5/
https://www.dgcoursereview.com/forums/showthread.php?t=116816

Disc golf serves a different demographic than traditional golf. By encouraging them to share the same infrastructure, it allows Passaic County to leverage their investment for a new group of people.
https://www.pdga.com/demographics

Disc golf baskets are often warranted for 20 years of active use. Once the initial investment is made, the course can meet the stated needs of county residents for years to come without significant maintenance.
https://www.discgolf.com/disc-golf-baskets/

The County of Passaic already has a relationship with a professional disc golf course designer. This trained person would be ideal for laying out a quality course that meets the needs of the disc golf community without interfering with the established golf course.

The golf facilities are completely dedicated to sport, and dwarf every other Lower Passaic County Park in size. The two courses total 377 acres, with considerable boundary regions suitable for disc golf.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Preakness_Valley

In the 2014 Passaic County Parks, Recreation, and Open Space Master Plan, 24% of respondent households reporting using Rifle Camp Park in the past 12 months, while only 11% of respondents used the current Passaic County Golf Course facilities in the last two years: (Master Plan, Passaic County Parks, pages 28-29)
Use of Preakness Valley Golf Course: The survey revealed that 11 percent of respondent households had used Preakness Valley Golf Course in the past two years.
We suggest that if there is an underused park in Passaic County, it might be the golf courses.
http://www.passaiccountynj.org/DocumentCenter/View/4334

See “Theodore Wirth Disc Golf Course” video,
showing disc golf played on a traditional par 3 golf course in perfect harmony:

CON: Why Rifle Camp Park is a Bad Location for a Disc Golf Course

Rifle Camp Park was clearly intended as a natural park with a nature center and hiking trails. It has served in this role since its creation.  http://savercp.org/was-rifle-camp-park-supposed-to-be-natural/

Rifle Camp Park is the last major parcel of undeveloped property in the Passaic County Park system in Lower Passaic County. It is a resource and a refuge for the residents of Paterson, Clifton, and Passaic from city life. To develop Rifle Camp Park as a sporting facility will place traditional passive uses of the park in conflict with its use as a disc golf course. https://www.dgcoursereview.com/forums/showthread.php?t=127303&page=2
http://savercp.org/a-disc-golf-forum-moderator-who-understands-passive-parks/

Disc golf is played with heavy plastic disks, often with sharp edges, hurled at metal targets at high speeds. Injuries to spectators are not unusual, along with injuries to the participants themselves. (In a recent survey, over 80% of disc golf players reported sports-related injuries.
http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/2325967115589076)
The paths taken by the flying disks are not regular or predictable, making an active disc golf course a hazardous environment for park visitors.
http://savemclarenpark.org/SMP4_dgsafety.html

There are over 19 public disc golf courses in New Jersey, for a sport which remains obscure. Four major courses can be found within 16 miles of Rifle Camp Park. There is no evidence of significant demand among Passaic County residents for a new disc golf course.  http://www.njdiscgolf.com/

New York City is the largest population center to Rifle Camp Park with a significant population of disc golfers. If installed in Rifle Camp Park, this course will be by far the closest course to New York City and the obvious choice for the thousands of city residents who play disc golf. https://www.pdga.com/course-directory

Passaic County Parks, Recreation, and Open Space Master Plan (2014) can be found at:
http://www.passaiccountynj.org/DocumentCenter/View/4334

The 2014 Master Plan reports that Rifle Camp Park “includes a mix of active and passive recreation”. (Master Plan, Passaic County Parks, page 16) The active recreation area of the park has been clearly defined as occupying the fields by the entrance, and the passive areas comprise the rest of the park. The installation of a disc golf course would extend active recreation to nearly the entire park, eliminating or greatly limiting passive recreation opportunities for Passaic County residents.

The 2014 Master Plan reports that in a survey respondents showed an overwhelming preference for passive recreation on hiking and nature trails. (Master Plan, Passaic County Parks, pages 28-29)
“Forty three (43) percent of respondent households indicated that they use walking and hiking trails most often. Eighteen (18) percent indicated that they used playgrounds most often. Thirteen (13) percent indicated that they used nature and river trails most often.”

The 2014 Master Plan also reports that in a survey Rifle Camp Park is the second most used Passaic County Park in the entire system, after Garret Mountain Reservation. (Master Plan, Passaic County Parks, page 28)
“The three most used areas were: Garret Mountain Reservation (45 percent of respondent households reported use in the past 12 months); Rifle Camp Park (24 percent of respondent households reported use in the past 12 months); and Goffle Brook Park (22 percent of respondent households reported use in the past 12 months).”
If the Nature Center and Observatory were reopened for educational programs, we have no doubt that the use of this park by Passaic County residents would return to historic levels without adding a disc golf course.

The Audubon Societies of both New Jersey (State) and Bergen County (National) have each clearly stated that Rifle Camp Park contains “extremely valuable and sensitive habitat”. This park is registered as part of an Important Birding Area, and is considered a valuable resource worthy of protection.
http://savercp.org/letter_njaudubon/
http://savercp.org/letter_bergen_county_audubon/
There are additional strong objections from the Sierra Club:
http://www.northjersey.com/story/opinion/readers/2017/08/30/letter-keep-rifle-camp-park-green-space-all/616810001/

 

Why Rifle Camp Park is Special


The proposed re-purposing of the land

would remove a unique natural environment in a place that needs it desperately. Paterson has always been a varied mixture of parks and urban vibe. Over the years it lost parts of the balance required for its citizens to enjoy life. This would be a step further down that road.

Older Patersonians will remember places to get away from the everyday hustle and bustle that have disappeared to quick, ill-advised changes. They breathed in more than just clean air at places like Garret Mountain. One by one they fell away to what were thought to be reasonable changes and we were left with few options.

As a kid I had many places to wander, exercising my body and my mind. Life was not just what the street offered but this area opened the world of nature to me also. Many of those are gone. Lost forever for all and the good of the people and wildlife. Rifle Camp Park and Garrett Mountain are not only natural areas for people but important environmental areas for wildlife. And it was a kid climbing around Rifle Camp Park and Garrett Mountain I discovered my love of nature, biology, and geology. I got to walk through a door that changed my life and it would be sad if that door closed forever for other kids in the future.

The proposed change would also have huge environmental impact on an already heavily impacted area. This oasis for wild-life would be lost. While lawn is better than pavement it is not replacement for trees and the bio-diversity that the land offers today. Trees and bushes scrub the air. They support wildlife. They add to a cleaner and happier Paterson.

There are places that the proposed use could be reclaimed from in other areas in Paterson, helping to remove more city blight and provide recreational areas for others.

I’m not suggesting that disc golf is a not nice pass-time and as important to well-being. What I am suggesting is that the view that this area is an appropriate place for this is short-sighted and has a larger impact on people and nature that can never be recovered. We have a need for both and there are places that need remediation that would be available, helping maintain the present area while recovering a piece of land that could add to. Recover a little bit of the balance in the area. An added breath of fresh air to the area.

I hope the board will reconsider the choice of Rifle Camp Park and Garret Mountain for the proposed changes, review a more appropriate choice and leave us with a better and brighter Paterson, it’s people and it’s wildlife.

By Otto Gross

Letter from NJ Audubon, Concerns for a Disc Golf Course at RCP

Below are the NJ Audubon comments submitted to the Passaic County Parks Director and County Freeholders regarding the Rifle Camp Park Improvement Project.  Please let us know if you have any questions.
Best,
Eric Stiles, President & CEO
New Jersey Audubon Society

Dear Director Sparta,

On behalf of New Jersey Audubon, the following comments address Passaic County’s Rifle Camp Park Improvement Project, which involves the construction of a disk golf course, dog park, 5k race loop, and other changes. As a non-profit, statewide membership organization with a mission to protect New Jersey’s animals and precious habitats, one of our many priorities is preserving Important Bird and Biodiversity Areas (IBAs), locations identified as critical for the conservation of bird populations. Given Rifle Camp Park is part of an IBA and contains extremely valuable and sensitive habitat, we recommend alternative sites to be considered for this project, should they exist. Otherwise, there is a need for careful consideration and reduction of all possible impacts.

Rifle Camp Park and the neighboring Garret Mountain Reservation make up the Garret Mountain IBA. Throughout the years, this area has been a destination for a number of New Jersey Audubon-led field trips and birding workshops. The entire site, comprised of deciduous forests and valuable water sources, supports rich populations of wildlife, and is especially important to our state’s birds. This area serves as an important stopover and flyover for a variety of migrating species including warblers, vireos, thrushes, sparrows, flycatchers, swallows and wrens. Located within the Atlantic Flyway, which is a major avian migration route travelling along the Atlantic Coast and up to the Appalachian Mountains, New Jersey hosts many visiting populations of birds seeking resources and habitat when breaking from their long journeys. This means that the conditions of our state’s IBAs are highly important.

The Garret Mountain IBA has been known to accommodate breeding birds such as barred owls, Kentucky warblers, prothonotary warblers, and yellow-breasted chats. This is significant as barred owls are listed as threatened in New Jersey, and Kentucky warblers and yellow-breasted chats are both species of special concern, or species that are showing evidence of decline or are impacted by some characteristic or challenge, such as habitat loss, making them at risk of reaching threatened status in the future.

This IBA not only stands out because of its importance to birds, but because of its vulnerability. The most serious issue it faces is damage to vital habitats caused by overpopulated white-tailed deer, and takeover of beneficial native habitat by invasive plants and pests. Additionally, with much ongoing development in the region, the area and its habitats are subjected to greater levels of nonpoint source pollution and face greater chances of human disturbance. Human activities and expansion within parks play a role in degradation because of increased disturbance and build-up of litter. Considering the sensitive state of the habitats within Rifle Camp Park, all potential impacts from this and any project need to be analyzed completely and in full context with simultaneous threats such as the mentioned over-browse by deer and surrounding development pressures.

The proposed disk golf course, though a greener alternative to many other athletic courses, carries potential risk to wildlife given an inevitable increase in foot traffic through forested areas. Generally, the course and other proposed amenities will attract a larger number of visitors, which could alter the way species use the surrounding environment by pushing some to relocate to more secluded spots in the forest. In consequence, monitoring efforts on residing habitats as well as human behavior would be an important undertaking to ensure that critical habitats are not being trampled and there aren’t serious disruptions.

Despite how unproblematic the sport may seem, there is a need to pay attention to any potential impacts of the course’s long-term existence. Several studies, including a University of Tennessee study published in 2011, suggest that, over time, traffic over soil from disk golf activity contributes significantly to soil compaction, which negatively impacts future vegetation growth and leads to increased soil erosion. Additionally, as damage to nearby trees and plants has been reported at disk golf courses in the past, planners should take design initiatives in order to reduce the chance of repetitive hits from discs.

On the topic of planned vegetation and small tree removal, we stress the need for all actions to follow the expert advice of the County’s NJDEP-certified forester and for the forester to consistently be made aware of all components of the plan. Excessive removal of vegetation can be detrimental to species, especially endangered or threatened species, if the vegetation being cut down includes valuable habitat. If removal of any significant plant species or habitat occurs, we inquire whether a plan is in place to replant or replace any of that vegetation.

Finally, we would like to confirm whether the proposed dog park is to be built on a section of wetland where amphibious species breed. Wetlands, which are havens for biodiversity and support a range of both plant and animal life, are important to preserve and therefore should be avoided as sites for construction. Like with all other activities of the Rifle Camp Park Improvement Project, we emphasize the need for complete confirmation from the forester or other appropriate environmental experts to ensure minimal ecological impact prior to installation.

If selection of an alternative, less sensitive site is not at all possible, it is important for managers of the park to make the preservation of existing natural resources a major planning focus, ensure compliance with the forester and any other relevant professionals, and monitor any effects the course and other amenities may have on wildlife and ecosystem health. New Jersey Audubon is a strong supporter of outdoor recreation and connecting people to nature; however, IBAs are critical habitat where development and impacts should be avoided and minimized.

We thank you for your consideration of our comments.

Sincerely,
Kelly Mooij
Vice President of Government Relations
New Jersey Audubon

What We Defend – Why Protect Rifle Camp Park?


Hi, do you have a minute?

I want to show you something.

Just take my hand, and close your eyes.

Okay, open them now.

See where we are?

Hear the car stereos, the sirens, the trucks hitting potholes, the fights? See the garbage in the streets? And do you smell that? It’s the antique sewers.

Hey, watch out! You almost got hit by a Porsche.

He’s here to buy drugs.

We are in Paterson, New Jersey. Silk City has seen better days.

That African American gentleman there, the one with the white beard, rising from his park bench and reaching out to shake your hand. He’s retired since he had a heart attack. He asks you how you are, and he really wants to hear. He promises to pray for you, and he will. He offers kind advice about living every day to its fullest. His smiling face and compassion prove that many good people still live in Paterson.

It is, though, a tough place to live.

But look up. Five hundred feet. That verdant outcropping. That is Paterson’s emerald. You are looking at Garret Mountain and Rifle Camp Park. Take my hand. Let’s go.

“Wow!”

I hear you. Wow, indeed. It is so different from Paterson, isn’t it? Or Woodland Park, or Clifton, the surrounding, endless, megalopolis of traffic jams and sports fields and pushing and shoving.

Here, you can feel the cool breeze clapping through the leaves, rather than heat pounding up from asphalt. You can hear birds sing and water trickle against basalt streambeds, rather than sirens’ wail and boom box blast. White and black and brown people, grandparents and children. Teens flying kites. Toddlers eye to eye with their very first frog. Lovers gazing at the rising moon as if they’ve never seen sky before.

Runners train with all the focus of Rocky Balboa before his big match with Apollo Creed.

A woman is pulling paper out of her pocket and scribbling. She’s a writer; she needs this escape to rendezvous with her muse.

We slip into tree cover. Suddenly all sound is muffled. We step silently over moss pillows. The trail is surprisingly steep. Our bodies are dappled with leaf shadow — just like that dappled fawn in the high grass. Never fear; her doe mother is nearby. We pass three young black men, seated around a big, table-shaped boulder. It’s where they come to decompress.

Over there you see some folks with binoculars. Believe it or not, this small park, falling within the boundaries of New Jersey’s third most populous city, in America’s most densely populated state, is an Audubon-designated, environmentally important area.

Look down around you. You see that this mountain is actually a plateau. It’s the remnants of an ancient magma flow. Down below: suburbs, factories, highways. New Jersey is right underneath the Atlantic Flyway, the ancient route birds take north in spring and south in winter. Because this park is an oasis of green surrounded by pavement, birds need Rifle Camp and Garret to feed and rest.

See those dead trees? They feed bugs, and birds eat those bugs. Then those trees crumple into soil, nourishing new life. The grasses, bushes, wetlands and rocks all play their part in making this park a lifeline for one-hundred-fifty species of birds, some of them endangered. Peregrines and bald eagles, red-headed woodpeckers and cerulean warblers. These birds travel from the Arctic to the Amazon, every year. New Jersey’s own Garret and Rifle Camp are part of the timeless, border-defying web of life.

Remember when we were back in the city, with all its rush and rules? You couldn’t cross the street till the sign said you could. You had to compete with others on the urban sidewalks. Think of how you feel on a sports field. The referee blows his whistle. “You win! You lose!”

We need trees as much as we need civilization. Thousands of years ago, Moses went into the wilderness to encounter God. Today we come to Garret Mountain / Rifle Camp.

When I was a kid, an older immigrant from Spain used to talk to me about how important it was for him to spend time in Rifle Camp Park. I think Rifle Camp gave him a chance to connect with the part of his soul that he left behind when he was a shepherd child in the dry hills beyond Toledo.

One of my neighbors now, a successful artist, a sophisticated professional who works for the city, cherishes this park as her route to inspiration for her abstract paintings.

Another woman I know doesn’t get up here as much as she would like. She doesn’t have a car and she needs a wheelchair. Even so, she makes it a point, every day, to gaze upward. No matter what she has just heard from the doctors or what hassle she must work through to get the medical care she needs, she finds peace and solace just in the vision. She can then focus on her day to day struggles with renewed vigor.

No, Garret Mountain / Rifle Camp is not, oh, say, Yosemite Valley. There are no spectacular rock faces to climb; no grizzly bears to fear.

This is what Garret Mountain / Rifle Camp Park is. It is a green escape from a concrete jungle. It is a refuge of bird melodies and wind song in a cacophony of blare. It is an essential oasis for a hummingbird so light you could mail ten of them with one first class stamp, a bird traveling a three-thousand-mile highway. It is a water sponge when it rains – it helps to lessen flooding. It is a seal that Passaic County voters protect their environment for future generations. It is a portal to another dimension, where the sun and the clouds create light, where air on the skin ignites pleasure, where manmade rules, from the “Don’t Walk” sign to the concept of points and home-runs, are utterly meaningless.

It is the place low-income Paterson, Clifton, and Woodland Park residents can reach. They may never climb Half Dome in Yosemite. They may never “Ooo” and “Aaa” over Yellowstone. They may be so low income they don’t have a car to reach Stokes Forest or Norvin Green Forest in western and northern New Jersey.

But they have this, their emerald, their green, their place to exhale. Passaic County Freeholders, don’t take away from this generation what previous generations have protected.

Sign the petition to protect Rifle Camp Park from development:
https://www.change.org/p/freeholders-of-passaic-county-save-rifle-camp-park-stop-the-disc-golf-course

Visit this webpage: http://savercp.org/

Join up with other cool people who want to protect Garret Mountain and Rifle Camp:
https://www.facebook.com/groups/238256699670035/

By Danusha V. Goska

Environmental Consequences of Disc Golf at Rifle Camp Park

Disc Golf at Campgaw
The forest floor is muddy and lifeless, trees damaged and weakened.

Cuts in tree bark allow harmful insects and diseases to enter.
In time the tree will die.

Nothing will ever grow on the fairways.
Precious soil compacted and eroded away.
With roots exposed, trees will weaken and fall.

Environmental Consequences at Rifle Camp Park

Disc Golf Course would pass through young forest.
Important bird habitat will be destroyed.

Thin soil on sensitive slopes will be eroded away…
Roots will be damaged. Native moss and plants eliminated.

Spring Wildflowers would be wiped out by foot traffic.

The Course passes near vernal pools and potential vernal pool habitat.

The Course passes along ridge tops and fragile mossy glades.

The Course follows directly along this seasonal stream.

This Fairway is in close proximity to nature trails.

Disc Golf fairway adjacent to existing nature trail.

Young healthy trees will be removed to make way for the course…
Trees that remain will suffer injury from discs and succumb to insects and disease.

 

Friends of Garret Mountain letter in Opposition to Disc Golf at RCP


THE FRIENDS OF GARRET MOUNTAIN RESERVATION
CLIFTON · WOODLAND PARK, NJ

Passaic County Board of Chosen Freeholders
Passaic County Administration Building
401 Grand Street
Paterson, NJ 07505

2/16/2017

Dear Freeholders and Administrators of Passaic County:
On January 23, 2017 a few members of our organization had met with Matthew Jordan (deputy county administrator) and Darryl Sparta (director of parks), at which time we were informed of the County’s plans to install an 18-hole frisbee golf (disk golf) course at Rifle Camp Park.

The Friends of Garret Mountain Reservation strongly opposes the installation of a disk golf course at Rifle Camp Park. We believe this project would cause irreparable damage to the environment, threaten the safety of park-goers, and is in direct contradiction to the needs of Passaic County residents, as expressed in the Parks, Recreation and Open Space Master Plan. We understand that this project is being developed through a private grant which has been given to the County. We would like to request further information as to the details of this grant.

The reasons for our opposition are as follows:
Development of an 18 hole disk golf course to be installed throughout Rifle Camp Park

Safety concerns:
Disk Golf presents a safety hazard and is not compatible with existing passive-recreation park uses.
The projectiles used in this sport are smaller and much heavier than flexible Frisbees. They can travel at great velocity, with speeds up to 60 mph, and often have a sharp cutting edge. These fast-flying discs would present a significant hazard to hikers, walkers, birders, and other park visitors. If a disk should hit a person it would cause serious injury. Rifle Camp Park is used daily by many County residents and is valued as a place where one can enjoy a tranquil walk or hike in the woods. Rifle Camp Park is also a relatively small park, with walking paths, hiking, and nature trails extending throughout. It is far too small an area to safely accommodate a disk golf course along with existing activities. Despite attempts to place baskets away from trails, disks can travel several hundred feet and often veer off-course. There would always be a risk that a hiker or walker could be hit and severely injured by a disk that flew out of bounds. If a disk golf course were to be installed at RCP, it would effectively remove the park from all other passive recreational uses.

Environmental impacts:
Destruction of forest understory and vegetation. There are still many existing areas of native vegetation and understory flora at Rifle Camp Park. Developing a disk golf course will result in the destruction of any remaining understory vegetation, including damage (or direct removal) of any young saplings. It will also prevent any future attempts at reforestation.
Soil Compaction: Increased foot traffic leads to compaction of the soil which can damage tree roots, prevent other plant growth, and encourage the growth of invasive species.
Damage to Trees: As previously mentioned, the projectiles used in this sport can travel at great velocity. Trees are frequently hit, causing deep cuts and gouges in the bark. These wounds leave trees vulnerable to insect attack and diseases. Once a tree is diseased, it can become a hazard and will either need expensive treatment or need to be taken down. RCP supports many large Red Oak trees, which are particularly susceptible to bacterial and fungal infection carried by insects. The trees become vulnerable to insect attacks through cuts and wounds in their bark. Once a tree becomes diseased it can also spread to other trees through their root systems. With no new trees growing (because saplings and understory will also have been removed) it will lead to long term deforestation of the park.
Soil Erosion: Increased foot traffic and reduced ground cover also leads to erosion of the soil. Erosion of the thin soils present at RCP will weaken trees further.
Impacts to birds and wildlife: Broken tree branches result in less habitat for migratory and nesting songbirds. Fast flying disks also provide a direct physical threat to the safety of wildlife and birds, especially understory and ground-nesting species. Rifle Camp Park is a part of the Garret Mountain Important Bird Area (as designated by the National Audubon Society) noted as a significant stopover for migratory songbirds. A disk golf course would severely diminish this migratory bird habitat.
Damage to fragile ecosystems: Rifle Camp Park includes many delicate ecosystems, including mossy ridgetops and glades with only a few inches of topsoil that took millions of years to produce. Foot traffic and erosion of these areas will easily destroy these fragile habitats, along with their associated native flora and fauna. Even if not in direct fairways, disks frequently fly “out of bounds” and players will trample in order to retrieve disks.

Environmental and Public Stewardship:
According to the Open Space Master Plan, the County Park System is a “steward of the environment” and acknowledges that “in addition to maintaining scenic natural and cultural landscapes having recreational value, the system’s natural resources fulfill important ecological functions.” It is also noted that Garret Mountain and Rifle Camp Park contain unique topographical features which “support the formation of microclimates and therewith, help to increase local and regional biodiversity, which increases ecosystem productivity and resilience.” It is our hope that the County will remain a protector of its natural lands and a steward of the environment.

We would also like to emphasize that protecting and preserving the forests and parklands in the developed southern part of the County is of no less importance than the lands in the upper northern areas. In fact, these parks are especially important as they provide the opportunity for the urban population to learn about and connect with the natural world. While there are many tranquil and unspoiled tracts of land in the upper portions of the County, not all urban residents have the time or means to get there. Garret Mountain (and especially Rifle Camp Park) provide a place for city residents to experience a peaceful natural environment without having to drive too far from home. Installation of a disk golf course would take this opportunity away.

  • Parks, Recreation and Open Space Master Plan:
    We believe that the installation of a Disk Golf course is inconsistent with the Open Space Master Plan, and directly contradicts the needs of Passaic County residents, as reflected in the Master Plan. The Plan was developed in conjunction with extensive input from County residents (via public meetings and surveys), and we believe it accurately reflects the needs of the public. (As stated a total of 3,000 surveys were sent, and 657 responses were received, which is a “sample large enough to provide statistically significant information.”)It should be emphasized that, according to the Open Space Master Plan:
  • Rifle Camp Park is the second-most used park in the County Park System.
  • The Master Plan states that “Rifle Camp Park provides opportunities for passive recreation and is mostly noted for camping and nature-related activities”
  • When asked the activities they participate in most, 43% (the largest number of respondents) indicated they used the walking and hiking trails. Another 13% said they most often used nature and river trails.
  • When residents were asked to indicate which types of park facilities they had the greatest need for: A clear majority, 74% indicated a need for walking and hiking trails. 56% indicated a need for nature trails, 52% indicated a need for trails along rivers and streams, and 49% indicated a need for natural areas/wildlife habitat. These were the top 4 responses given by County residents.
  • Development of a disk golf course at Rifle Camp Park would do precisely the opposite of what County residents have requested. It would in effect remove hiking, walking and nature trails from safe public use, and it would destroy natural areas and wildlife habitat.

In light of the various issues and concerns presented here, we urge the County to reject the installation of a disk golf course at Rifle Camp Park. If the County still intends to go forth with this project, we would like to request a full public review/input process, along with an independent environmental impact study.

Sincerely,
Vera Lazar, Cor. Sec.
Friends of Garret Mountain Reservation

A Disc Golf Forum Moderator who Understands Passive Parks

A Disc Golfer Review Moderator on Passive Use of Parks
https://www.dgcoursereview.com/forums/showthread.php?t=127303&page=2

#13    05-09-2017, 12:41 PM
Three Putt  *Super Moderator*
Join Date: Jun 2007   Location: Rolla, MO.  Years Playing: 22.4
Courses Played: 132  Throwing Style: RHBH  Posts: 7,629
Thanked 92 Times in 51 Posts

Parks and recreation on the whole has a problem with passive use areas. If you read the stuff they have you read in college to get a degree in parks and recreation, there is a lot of Horace Albright/Aldo Leopold/Frederick Law Olmsted stuff in there that all talks about passive use areas. Passive use is a major component of basic park design.

Then we get out of college and try to cram as many active use areas into the park that we can. Everybody and their brother has an idea on what to do here, there and everywhere. The idea that there are areas set aside that you are not going to mess with and leave for the community to experience nature goes out the window. You need a pool. And playgrounds. And pavilions for picnics with barbecue grills and horseshoe pits. And baseball fields. And soccer fields. And community centers. And designated, paved bike trails. And dog parks. And disc golf courses. Eventually you run out of room and…so you know that passive use area? Nobody uses that, right?

Of course people do use it, but they are doing their own thing. They won’t be organized. There generally is no club for people who like to wander alone in the woods and ponder life. Usually when you go after their land, they are sitting ducks.

Sometimes they get organized and they look a lot like this group. Usually the most vocal are people who live nearby, they have a lot of their day to day invested in the passive use land being there.

Stories like this don’t freak me out. Communities DO need passive use areas. Not every undeveloped piece of land with trees needs to be a disc golf course. There has to be a balance someplace.

Thanks: (5)  cefireDavidSaulsMandomarkmccPBokor

Letter from Don Torino, President Bergen County Audubon Society, against Disc Golf at RCP


05/9/17

Dear Passaic County Freeholders;

Bergen County Audubon Society and our over 2,000 members would like to voice our opposition to the proposed Disc Golf development planned for Rifle Camp Rd. section of Garret Mountain Preserve.

The proposed removal of 100 small trees will cause an interruption of the natural progression of mature to juvenile tree replacement. There will be a point in time where the mature trees will be at their end of life and the number of juvenile trees to replace them will be limited. In addition, the removal of young trees and shrubs in combination with the trampling of paths between each disc golf station would make this area more prone to erosion and flooding. In addition, the fragmenting of the habitat (Tree removal) will threaten many breeding birds that are threatened or endangered like the Wood Thrush, whose numbers have been drastically reduced due to the loss of unbroken woodland habitat.

Garret Mountain Preserve is home to nesting Owls, warblers, hawks and migrating species of birds as well as home to smaller mammals who depend upon cover, seed and insects to survive and reproduce.  The disturbance, noise and impact on trees, that an 18-hole disc golf development will create while building and in use will make the habitat inhabitable to many of the current species.

We respectfully ask you to reconsider this decision. Please contact me if you would like to discuss this.

Thank you;

Don Torino
President Bergen County Audubon Society
201-230-4983
greatauk4@gmail.com

Letter of Support from the Animal Protection League of New Jersey

PO Box 174, Englishtown, NJ 07726
Voice: 732-446-6808  www.aplnj.org

September 20, 2017

Dear Passaic County Freeholders:

The Animal Protection League of New Jersey (APLNJ) is formally joining the Save Rifle Camp Park Coalition. APLNJ opposes the development of Rifle Camp Park into an 18-hole disc golf course.

APLNJ members who live around the park reached out to us to help stop this development project that would destroy the natural beauty of the park.

The Passaic County Freeholders have an opportunity to protect and preserve this natural area from the unintended consequences to development, which are many. Displaced wildlife alone can lead to conflicts and disruption. This development compromises the environment and is not in line with the goals plainly stated in the Parks, Recreation and Open Space Master Plan.

If members of the Passaic County Freeholders board want disc golfing, when APLNJ checked, there were nineteen disc golfing facilities in the state. There is no urgent need for such a facility within Rifle Camp Park.

Disc golfing is inherently dangerous and while all sports have risks, this “sport” can endanger nonparticipants.

The solution is clear. The Passaic County Freeholders should abide by the public will, who are overwhelmingly opposed to the disc golf course in Rifle Camp Park.

APLNJ implores Passaic County Freeholders to scrap the proposal to install a disc golf course at Rifle Camp Park. If the Freeholders move forward with this ill-advised plan, APLNJ strongly recommends that a full public review process is undertaken, an assessment of the impact to the community and park is performed, and to think of another place outside of this pristine environment be used instead.

Sincerely,

Angi Metler
Executive Director