December 12, 2010; Source: | A nonprofit group that maintains a 240-acre nature preserve in Northeastern New Jersey has put the word out to would-be do-gooders that if they really want to do good—stay home. Or at least check with the Hilltop Conservancy before undertaking any projects, like clearing trails.

According to, unsanctioned work is causing serious damage to the preserve. For instance, conservancy members have found places where fox grape and Virginia creeper vines “are being cut wholesale,” threatening a source of food for small animals that live in the woods. In another instance, someone had removed logs and branches from steep trail beds, which if not replaced, could lead to serious erosion.

To prevent further damage, the nonprofit group has sent notices and put up signs along trails telling people who want to initiate their own projects to leave things alone. “We appreciate volunteerism, and we realize a lot of people have good intentions,” said Theresa Trapp, the conservancy’s treasurer. “But we really need people to contact us before doing any work.”

One official has seen similar problems in other of the county’s parks. But he blames this on a different kind of culprit. Bruce DeVita, chief project coordinator for the Essex County Department of Parks, Recreation and Cultural Affairs, said: “Mountain bikers use the reservations a lot, and they’ll create their own trails, and if something’s in their way, they’ll move it.”

Perhaps the conservancy should put up signs at the entrance and around the preserve that tells anyone with the potential to do more harm than good while visiting to simply “park it.”—Bruce Trachtenberg