No Ultras for You: Morris Park Commission Denies Permits to NJ Trail Series

In a letter to NJ Trail Series, the Morris County Park Commission declined to grant permits for three of their races in 2012.

Citing safety concerns voiced at a closed meeting in September, the commission mailed a letter to organizer Rick McNulty on 19 September, saying they will not give permits for three marathon or longer distance races organized by NJ Trail Series.  The events are the Muddy Marathon held in Craigmeur and the surrounding woods; the NJ Ultra Festival in Long Valley on the Columbia Rail Trail; and Mahlon Mayhem in Mahlon Dickerson Reservation.

“Somebody had a meeting to discuss us, and didn’t invite us or ask for input,” said McNulty.

In addition, the commission is quintupling the season fee for the the summer cross-country races at Central Park, from $600.00 to $3000.00 for the 20-race series.

“They asked us to come to a meeting [in May] without telling us what is was about,” said McNulty.  In the meeting, McNulty said commission members spoke in “generalities” about safety concerns in these three events.  Commission members said that at distances longer than 25 k (15 miles), athletes ran an increased risk of being injured.

McNulty complied with their requests for safety improvements.  For Mahlon, he retained two policemen on ATVs as Mahlon Dickerson Reservation’s trails aren’t accessible by car.  For the NJ Ultra Series, McNulty paid for a Park Police radio dispatcher during the graveyard shift, midnight to 6 AM. (The Park Police office is generally closed overnight.)  He was also asked to work with local law enforcement as the NJ Ultra crosses several major roads.  In spite of their safety concerns, the commission didn’t require NJ Trail Series to have medical assistance on site for their events.

McNulty estimated that nearly 50% of the participants in the ultra events are from out of state, giving business to local merchants and adding to state tax receipts.

On the fee increase for the cross-country series, the commission said they had under-billed NJ Trail Series for this event in previous years.  A public fee schedule is not available on the park commission website.

“They charged us a $75.00 garbage fee one time at a carry-in, carry-out park,” said McNulty.

McNulty estimated that nearly 50% of the participants in the ultra events are from out of state, giving business to local merchants and adding to state tax receipts.

Runners showed up at a park commission meeting on Monday night to voice their support of NJ Trail Series, and it now appears that the commission will reopen discussions with NJ Trail Series to resolve their concerns.  Kristin Biase, the commission recreation manager, did not return phone calls seeking comment for this story.