Pinelands Commission: No Soccer Tourneys at Farm
A youth soccer tournament may have to move to another site after the Pinelands Commission barred it from hosting games on a south Jersey turf farm.
The South Jersey Elite Barons Soccer Academy predicts it would prevail in court if the dispute gets that far, but hopes things can be resolved before then.
The group hosts tournaments where about 2,000 people attend at the Tuckahoe Turf Farms in Hammonton, inside the ecologically protected Pinelands zone.
The commission says the area is zoned only for low-impact recreation.
But league attorney Robert McKinley told The Press of Atlantic City (http://bit.ly/1hOeRnH) the games can't possibly hurt the area.
"The very turf at issue here is later scraped from the earth, rolled into bails and sold commercially," he said. "If that activity is permissible, how can playing soccer on the same turf prior to removal cause harm to the Pinelands?"
Commission spokesman Paul Leakan said he could not give a definitive answer about whether the tournament can be held at the farm.
"I can tell you we are in discussion with the property owners and not aware of any events being canceled," he said.
The Pinelands is a million-acre preserve protected from most development by federal and state law.
There are nine large tournaments scheduled for 2014. Neither the farm nor groups that hold soccer events there ever applied to the commission for permits, even though the farm is in the Pinelands National Reserve, according to the commission.
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