Holmdel proposes fossil hunting rules to stem erosion
Posted by the Asbury Park Press on 07/30/06


BY JANEEN JONES
KEYPORT BUREAU

HOLMDEL A tradition of hunting for fossils on township-owned land, including parks, may be regulated to protect stream banks from erosion.

The Township Committee is holding a public hearing Aug. 17 on an ordinance that would require permits for groups and would limit fossil removal.

While Christopher Schultz, township administrator, admits the ordinance will be difficult to enforce, especially because the township doesn't have park rangers, he said the ordinance provides the township with the ability to know who is hunting for fossils.

If the ordinance is adopted, signs with the new regulations will be posted in the areas near the Bayonet Farm and Ramanessin Brook, where there is a high volume of fossil hunting, Schultz said.

Colts Neck and Middletown have similar ordinances, said Dr. Donald Lemma of the township Environmental Commission.

Cathy Chiarelli of Overlook Drive said the proposed ordinance sounds like a good idea.

"I think when people have to sign their names to something, they feel more accountable and responsible," Chiarelli said. "If I'm signing this permit, I'm responsible that the grounds are left the way I found them."

The new rules would:

Limit fossil collection from dawn to dusk.

Restrict collection of fossils to stream beds, excluding stream banks. The ordinance would prohibit removal of fossils from the walls of a stream bed above the water line. Damage is done to the stream banks, or outer edges, during fossil digs because it exposes tree roots, Lemma said.

Limit the use of equipment to trowels with a maximum blade width of six inches and small screens with a 144-square-inch maximum area.

Limit visitors from harvesting more than five fossils per day.

Require a group of 15 or more to seek a permit for fossil collection. There would not be a fee for the permit, Schultz said.

The proposal for regulations on fossil hunting came from the Environmental Commission after members observed visitors using screens much larger than the proposed 144-square-inch maximum, Lemma said.

Township officials realize there will be natural erosion, but they want to be proactive in trying to regulate man-made erosion, Schultz said.

"We think fossil collection is a terrific activity," Lemma said. But the environmental commission thinks it is necessary to regulate fossil removal, before it gets out of hand, he said.
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