Thursday, May 7, 2015

World as Classroom: Tale of Two Pleasurable Ponds

By Erik Lipkin 

What makes so many outdoor activities such as hiking, fishing, and kayaking so enjoyable is the peace they offer.  Certainly, playing basketball or tennis is also a nice way to spend a sunny afternoon but those activities don’t offer what hiking or fishing do—seclusion.  For many outdoor lovers, seclusion in the woods, with only their own daydreams to keep them company, is like heaven.  That is why there are often mixed emotions when a favorite hiking, or fishing locale is developed, even if that development is beneficial.

Take the beautiful Terrace Pond in West Milford, N.J. for example.  Terrace Pond offers wonderful hiking on trails where you seldom see another person.  At the end of the hike the pond is reached and offers deep, cold waters for weary hikers to cool off and relax.  While most of the forest trails leading to the pond are empty, there is a shorter trail that climbs directly to the pond that is always packed with partiers going to the pond with a cooler full of beer to enjoy a sunny day.  While that is all well and good, many of those partiers are unfamiliar with the etiquette that goes along with enjoying the outdoors and most of them don’t pack out what they carry in; hiking 101.  That’s why the area around the pond and a lookout point farther down the trail are often littered with trash. 

The beauty of Terrace Pond is that the pond is deep in the woods, seemingly in the middle of nowhere.  There are no houses or industrial buildings anywhere near it; it is a hikers dream.  However, that seclusion is also why it has become such a hot spot for people looking to put back a few beers and hang out. 

While the trail is maintained nicely by volunteers, during the summer months it is hard to keep up with the influx of trash.  Also, too often young people will find pleasure in feeding their leftover sandwiches and chips to snapping turtles, something that trashes the pond and encourages the turtles to keep coming back to the swimming entrance to the pond.  So with the pond’s seclusion come its problems.

Another gorgeous location for hikers, fishermen, or kayakers is Catfish Pond in Blairstown, N.J.  Like Terrace Pond, Catfish Pond also offers many fabulous hiking trails but there is one major difference between the two locations; Catfish Pond is not so secluded.  Drive down a residential street and after a long, rocky drive you will reach the Mohican Outdoor Center.  Once a former Boy Scout camp, the area bordering the pond now serves as a place for families to rent cabins to spend a weekend of outdoor enjoyment together.  The feeling at Catfish Pond is vastly different than that of Terrace Pond.

Terrace Pond is wilder, and there seems to be an “anything goes” attitude.  At Catfish Pond there are employees who are there from sunup to sundown and the place is very well maintained.  Catfish Pond has many bear bins where people can safely store their trash.  That eliminates the temptation for people to leave their trash on the side of a trail.  That is the major difference between the two ponds; one is wild, out in the middle of the woods, while the other is closer to reality and has a staff that is always there to make sure it is well maintained. 

That is where the discussion of development comes into play.  Is it better to have a place like Terrace Pond that feels more natural and wild?  Or is it better to have a little bit of development if that development is used to enhance people’s outdoor enjoyment and helps to maintain a property?  Certainly, opinions vary on this topic, with some people pitching in and carrying out other people’s trash if it means a more natural area to enjoy.  Others are fine with a few cabins and bear bins if it means a cleaner, better maintained area.

Both Terrace and Catfish Pond are beautiful areas that every resident of New Jersey should seek out.  They offer an escape from reality, Terrace Pond more so than the other.  If it is a wild, untamed environment you seek than take a trip to Terrace Pond.  However, if you would rather enjoy a more family friendly, clean locale than Catfish Pond is a can’t miss locale. 

So while the debate between development and non-development rages on, it has become a little more clear that both have their place in aiding outdoorsmen find their peace.  Just to be crystal clear, when the term “development” is used, in this case it is referring to development for cabins and lodges that intertwine with nature, not development that tramples nature in favor of condos and cookie cutter houses to feed a growing suburbia. 

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