On Sept. 27, the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection embarked on a new process to learn how park users recreate in Wharton State Forest, the single largest tract of land within the New Jersey State Park System. The goal of this process is to develop a plan for public access while protecting natural resources and ensuring public safety in the state forest.
The DEP presented the results of the Wharton State Forest Visitor and Vehicle Use Survey and gathered public input during the second in a series of virtual public meetings on Wednesday, Feb. 8. The presentation was followed by a two-hour public comment period. Those who were unable to make a public comment during the meeting can submit a written comment by clicking here.
The DEP is committed to robust public input as it develops a long-term plan that considers multiple user interests while protecting the sensitive ecosystems and cultural resources found within Wharton State Forest, the largest tract in the New Jersey State Park System.
Wharton State Forest is within the New Jersey Pinelands, a more than 1 million acre region that is recognized for its unique natural resources and is classified as a National Biosphere Reserve of national and international significance.
Located within Wharton State Forest is Batsto Village, a former bog iron and glassmaking industrial center from 1766 to 1867 that reflects the agricultural and commercial enterprises that existed in New Jersey during the late 19th century. The forest is also home to Atsion Recreation Area, which is a popular destination for picnicking, swimming and exploring. Wharton State Forest contains multiple rivers and streams for canoeing, hiking trails, miles of unpaved roads for mountain biking and horseback riding, and numerous lakes, ponds and fields ideal for wildlife observation. Nine campgrounds are dispersed throughout the forest, two of which are only accessible by foot or paddle.
Wharton boasts some 575 species of plants, including wild orchids, sedges, grasses and insect-eating plants. Rare plants include the bog asphodel, swamp pink and Pine Barrens gentian. The predominant trees are the pitch pine, various oak species, and Atlantic white cedar.
Learn more on Wharton State Forest's webpage.
The DEP anticipates next public meeting will be scheduled for late summer 2023.