Discussion of meeting with Mayor Sceusi

I had a chance to discuss the results of yesterday’s meeting with Mayor Louis Sceusi of Rockaway Township.  The mayor said the meeting was very productive because all the parties involved were present and under pressure from State Senator Bucco and Assemblymen Bucco and Carroll (who were all also at the meeting) to resolve the issue. Jersey City contends that since the state has the conservation easement on the land, it is the state’s responsibility to patrol and enforce the regulations.  Jersey City believes recreational use of the reservoir does not benefit its citizens, even going to far to say that they would be happy to see a barbed wire fence put up around it.  Luckily, that will not happen.

DEP has agreed to step up enforcement patrols and ticketing in the area.  Jersey City has agreed to provide whatever documentation is required to allow the direct enforcement of trespassing and other ordinances by Rockaway Township and DEP Conservation Officers.

The mayor stated that orders to put up new “No Trespassing” signs around the reservoir have already been issued.  As soon as the authorization paperwork is filed with the various entities people can expect trespassing tickets and other violations such as criminal mischief to be issued regularly by both RTPD and NJ DEP officers.  Mr. Sceusi wanted to be clear however, that people fishing, boating, hiking or otherwise legally using the reservoir will not be subject to these tickets.

When asked if he saw this as a viable long term solution to the problems at Splitrock, the mayor said yes, assuming all parties follow through with their agreements.  He did suggest that the state could go one step further and declare the reservoir a Wildlife Management Area, which would allow even stricter enforcement under WMA rules.

As for when the barriers will be removed?  The mayor would have liked to have seen them taken away today, but as of early afternoon had not yet received the paperwork.

“Probably Monday.” he said.

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Agreement tentatively reached; Splitrock parking lot to be reopened!

NJ.com is reporting that a verbal agreement has been reached between Rockaway Township, Jersey City, and the NJ DEP which satisfies Rockaway Township’s concerns enough that they are willing to reopen the reservoir parking lot.

In the agreement, [Rockaway Township Mayor Louis Sceusi] said, Jersey City will give Rockaway Township and the state Department of Environmental Protection the authority to issue court summonses for rules violations, and the state will increase patrols there.

This would allow Rockaway Township and the state to properly police the area and put a quick end to the illegal activities going on there.  The mayor said that the barricades would be removed as soon as a written agreement was in place between the three parties, which may occur this week.

It is great that they were able to work something out.  Hopefully the barriers will be removed in time for people to enjoy using the reservoir this weekend.  I left a message last night and spoke with someone in the office of Mayor Sceusi this morning seeking comment.

Read the article at NJ.com
Rockaway Twp., Jersey City tentatively resolve Split Rock Reservoir dispute

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Rockaway Township PD heavily ticketing Split Rock Road parkers

On Tuesday evening, none of the vehicles I saw parked on Split Rock Road had tickets at the time I was there.  Apparently that did not last long.  David, one of the Friends of Splitrock reports via a comment:

My Father-in-law and I were one of the ones who parked outside of the lot on Tuesday. We were fortunate enough not to get a ticket but ALL other vehicles (with the exception of the two inside the lot) were given tickets sometime after 8pm.

I spoke with the owner of one of the vehicles parked inside the barricaded lot Tuesday and he confirmed that he was not issued a ticket.

As always, parking on Split Rock Road violates Rockaway Township ordinance, so be careful where you leave your vehicle if you decide to continue using Splitrock Reservoir while the parking lot entrances are blocked.  Cars blocking Split Rock Road (and therefore emergency access through the area) are a high priority enforcement item for the Rockaway Township Police Department.

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Assemblyman Bucco will be at today’s meeting

I just heard from Matt Wenzel at Assemblyman Anthony M. Bucco’s office that the assemblyman will be at the meeting scheduled for 3 pm today between Rockaway Township’s mayor and council and the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection. Assemblyman Bucco has been out of the office on business so Mr. Wenzel is still working on getting the assemblyman’s position on the issue.

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Further coverage of Splitrock lot closure on DailyRecord.com

Daily Record writer Rob Jennings has another article on the Splitrock Reservoir closure which available at DailyRecord.com.  The article confirms what we learned from Mayor Sceusi and the DEP today.

Read the article at DailyRecord.com
Rockaway Township, NJ: Day 2 of Split Rock Reservoir standoff brings no change

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Splitrock parking lot closure backfiring

I stopped by the reservoir this evening to see if there had been any change from yesterday. There are still no signs to let the public know why the lot has been closed.

Aside from getting the attention of the NJ DEP and Jersey City leadership, the barricade does not seem to be having the desired effect of keeping the Split Rock Road clear of illegally parked cars and the Splitrock Reservoir clear of swimmers.  (Parking is prohibited the entire length of Split Rock Road in Rockaway Township and swimming is prohibited in the reservoir.)

Four swimmers were in the water directly in front of the boat launching area at 7:20 pm…

Swimmers on the evening of July 28, 2010

Swimmers on the evening of July 28, 2010

Cars are parked on both sides of the barricades…

Parking lot closure backfires

Parking lot closure backfires

Even directly on the road…

Parking lot closure backfires

Parking lot closure backfires

Two fishermen with enough ground clearance bypassed the barricades in order to help themselves to the state funded resource they are entitled to.

Two trucks bypassed the barricades

Two trucks bypassed the barricades

His logic seems sound to me.

One angler who would not be stopped

One angler who would not be stopped

Interestingly, none of he vehicles present at the time I was there had been issued parking tickets.  It seems clear that the barricades are not keeping people from using the reservoir.  In fact, they have created a condition in the vicinity of the parking lot which is now more hazardous than before while having little to no impact on the original problem of swimmers, littering and other disrespectful behavior.  The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection and Jersey City have contacted Rockaway Township in order to get meetings scheduled to resolve the jurisdictional and policing problems with the reservoir.

It is time to stop punishing the legitimate users of the reservoir, the fishermen, boaters and hikers, and REMOVE THE BARRICADES!

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Discussion of Splitrock closure with Rockaway Township Mayor Louis Sceusi

This afternoon I had the pleasure to speak at length with Rockaway Township Mayor Louis Sceusi regarding the closure of the parking lot at Splitrock Reservoir.  My first question was why he ordered the closure.

“I suggest you go onto YouTube and you see all the kids that are diving off the cliffs.  It has become a hazard in terms of young people using it for swimming, drinking, and partying.  The litter in the back, and I’ve seen it myself, I’ve been there the last three weekends, is absolutely out of control.”

The mayor wanted to be clear that the people following the rules at Splitrock are not the problem.  The reservoir and surrounds are open to fishing from boats (no gas motors), kayaking, canoeing and hiking, but swimming and camping are prohibited.

“We’re not opposed to any fisherman.  Unfortunately it’s a temporary closure to get the state to respond.  They have absolutely not responded.  I sent them a letter ten days ago saying that it is out of control, please come up there and do something about it.  These kids are obviously not fishermen, they are in bathing suits as they get there and they are asking ‘Where is the swimming hole and where do we dive from?’”

Because the reservoir is owned by Jersey City, the mayor says Rockaway Township needs an affidavit from the owner stating that someone is trespassing before they can act on the swimmers.  He has asked for a blanket permission of this type from Jersey City for five years, but “They have ignored me” he says.  Without this permission, the complicated jurisdictional arrangement at the reservoir makes enforcement of the rules difficult.  Rockaway Township is responsible for the road, Jersey City for the parking area and water, and DEP for fish and game regulation.

However, the private security used by Jersey City is not able to effectively police the area.  I once caught a person in the act of stealing one of my deep-cycle batteries in the parking lot.  The response from the security officer was “What do you want me to do about it?”  The mayor is similarly disappointed with Jersey City’s security, even having found a security officer asleep on the job.

According to the mayor, the Rockaway Township Police Chief has offered an “open-door” policy to both the park rangers and Jersey City’s security police in order to facilitate the processing of complaints, but if no charges are being filed there is nothing they can do.  He continues “My suggestion has been, and will be to Jersey City: Hire off-duty Rockaway Township police officers, many of whom live here and know the area and would be happy to do it.  And I’ll even lend them the township’s off-road vehicles [four wheel drives and quads] as long as they pay for the off-duty cops.  Our guys will know what to do.”

Mr. Sceusi sees the parking lot closure as a last resort effort to draw both Jersey City and Trenton’s attention to the problems at Splitrock Reservoir.

“I sent a letter, I called down there, they don’t answer me at all.  Now this did get a response.  Both Jersey City and the commissioner of the DEP called us this morning and want to set up a meeting, which is wonderful.”

“I like it myself, it is beautiful up there.”  Mr. Sceusi says.  ”I’m hoping to actually make it better.”

The mayor urges citizens upset about the closure to contact the office of the commissioner of the DEP to state their views.  Ways to do so are available at the Contact Information page.

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Initiated contact with Rockaway Township

I attempted to speak with Rockaway Township mayor Louis S. Sceusi today to get his side of the story.  Mr. Sceusi is the one who ordered the parking lot to be barricaded.  Unfortunately, I had to leave a message.

The person who took the message at the Rockaway Township administration office said “The mayor is not in the office.  He’s a part time mayor, so I will get the message to him and I hope that he will be able to call you back today.”

We’ll see!  I will post an update if I hear from him.

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DEP Press Office comments on closure

Larry Hajna from the DEP Press Office was kind enough to return my call and answer a few questions about the Splitrock closure.

“We know that they blocked it off and we are currently working on resolving this issue.  I wish I could tell you more, but I am hoping we will have a resolution very shortly.”  I pressed him for how long he expected very shortly to mean.  ”Hopefully today, but I don’t want to go out on a limb and say that’s for sure.”

Mr. Hajna said that DEP was reaching out to Rockaway Township as well as Jersey City (owners of the reservoir) and that the three parties will need to work together to effect a solution.

I asked him to clarify the jurisdictional situation at Splitrock.  As it had been explained to me in the past by Rockaway Township police officers, the township is responsible only for the road.  The reservoir itself and the banks are owned by and the responsibility of Jersey City.

“That’s a pretty accurate representation…. We’re working on resolving that issue.  What we’ve done in the past is the conservation officers patrol that area, the parking lot and launch area, and enforce various types of activities there.  But, outside of that area, because of the jurisdictional issues they, in the past, have only enforced the fish and game regulations, the game code.  But we’re working on resolving that.”

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Splitrock closure on front page of Daily Record

The closure of the parking area at Splitrock Reservoir has made the front page of the Daily Record newspaper.

Mayor Louis Sceusi said he ordered concrete barriers installed on Monday morning after neither the Department of Enviornmental Protection, which built the small lot in 2004, nor Jersey City responded to his July 14 letter reiterating the town’s concerns.

It is good to see some more coverage of the issue.

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