After biker death, trail safety in Mills Reservation comes up for discussion
PHOTO BY ERIN ROLL/STAFF
By ERIN ROLL
The death of a mountain biker in Mills Reservation last week has been officially ruled an accident.
After an investigation, the June 26 death of Wayne resident Kerry Rivera was ruled a sudden, accidental death, said Sgt. Helena Olivera of the Essex County Sheriff’s Office on Friday.
Rivera, 49, and his brother had been riding bikes on the trail along the cliffs near Old Quarry Road, near the Montclair-Cedar Grove town line, when he lost control of his bike and fell over the cliff’s edge into a ravine.
On social media, a number of Montclair-area residents voiced concerns about the edges of the cliffs, and the fact that there are no barricades in that area of the park.
One of the trails crawls along the edge of the cliffs in the reservation’s southeast corner, and follows a sharp curve overlooking the ravine.
The June 26 accident has led to a renewed discussion among area residents of what activities are, and are not, allowed in county parks.
Mountain biking is officially not allowed in Mills Reservation or any Essex County-maintained parks; the county states that biking is allowed only on paved vehicular roadways or designated bicycle paths.
County spokesman Anthony Puglisi said on Monday that he couldn’t comment on enforcement of the no-bikes rule in the parks.
But Mills Reservation is mentioned as a good place to go mountain biking on a number of online forums for mountain bikers in New Jersey, with reviewers commenting on how the reservation’s terrain makes for an enjoyable ride.
The forum SingleTracks.com gives Mills Reservation a black diamond, or advanced, rating, and comments: “There is some fairly technical single track along more moderate single track and gravel fire roads. The trails leading north east from the cliff lookout in the south of the park are comprised almost exclusively solid ‘trap rock’ and makes for some very fun riding.”
Another forum, MTBR.com, has this description of Mills: “There is a lot of good single track with many logs, small streams, and good rocky portions. Just be careful, it’s illegal to ride here and sometimes police wait at entrances, but this almost never occurs.”
Other forums include a warning that mountain biking is illegal in the park, though some users say that the no-bikes rule is not really enforced.
However, county officials say that the Sheriff’s Office routinely does patrols in the county parks.
Sheriff’s Office spokesman Kevin Lynch said on Monday that as of that date, the sheriff’s office had issued a total of 15 disorderly persons summonses for Mills Reservation this year. “All these summonses are for dogs off leash, mountain biking — they’re all classified as disorderly persons,” Lynch said. Last year, the total was 33.
For a first offense, Lynch said, a mountain biker may receive a warning and be asked to take their bike off the premises. A second offense may result in a summons. Summonses for mountain biking or violating any other park ordinances may result in a $500 fine.