There is a small amount of information on the history of the Batona Trail available online, but what do we really know about how it all came about? And who really was instrumental in it’s development, how did they get permission to build it, and who gave that permission to allow them to proceed? I am sure over the years many a hiker of the trail asked these questions to themselves, with very little chance of finding the answer.
Recently, I acquired the notes of Morris Bardock who was the President of the Batona Hiking Club at the time of the trails inception, and in his writings that he calls “The Batona Trail Diary, the First Thirty Miles,” he answers some of these interesting questions and more. In later years he even worried that the history of the trail would be lost forever, and he made contact with at least one individual to try to insure it was not. I suspect you have never before viewed most of the information you will read below, and this is my attempt to make sure that Mr. Bardock’s worries were for nothing. I have hand typed this text from his diary, and so there always is a chance I made a few mistakes. And there are a few that he made that I have left in, and I have moved some of the text around for better clarity. Hopefully, you will find this as interesting as I have. Enjoy!
The Batona Trail Diary, the First Thirty Miles
By Morris Bardock
Sometime 1960 – The idea of building a hiking trail through the Wharton and Lebanon State Forests was first suggested by Dale Knapschafer of the Batona Hiking Club.
January 20, 1961- A letter was written to State Commissioner Salvatore A. Bontempo, of the Department of Conservation and Economic Development, explaining our plans, and hoping for endorsement. To our pleasant surprise a most favorable reply was received. We were to meet with J. C. MacDonald, manager of Wharton. Just about that time Mr. MacDonald was advanced to a post in Trenton, and our first meeting was held with assistant, Sid Walker. We had earlier received a letter from Mr MacDonald.
January 27, 1961- At a leaders meeting of the Batona Hiking Club, Morris Bardock President presiding, building the trail was made an official club project.
The original letter from the Batona Hiking Club to Mr Bontempo that started it all:
The Back to Nature Hiking Club of Philadelphia desires to make hiking a popular past time for more people. One contribution our club can make towards this goal is the laying out and maintenance of a hiking trail in an area accessible to a large number of people. We are considering a trail connecting the Wharton Tract and Lebanon State Forest since these areas have many visitors. Also, South Jersey has few if any developed trails: therefore, our project, we feel, would serve a function for the Forestry Service with no cost to the State.
The exact route will not be determined until we do more exploring, but it will probably go from Batsto to Pakim Pond or Deep Hollow Pond and beyond. The length will be about twenty miles, but people visiting in Lebanon Forest or the Wharton Tract could take shorter hikes along it. We will try to route the trail near campgrounds and picnic areas to make it easy to use.
We propose to use existing sand roads and trails to go across country only where necessary. Therefore the forest will not be harmed by the trail. The entire trail will be marked by painting blaze marks on trees at necessary intervals. On cross country sections we could simply mark the trail following an accessible route. We might perhaps clear out a little debris where it would greatly impede walking.
The Back to Nature Hiking Club is thirty-two years old and the most active in Philadelphia. The trail work will be done by competent out-of-doors people who have been hiking for years. We are conservation minded and can assure you that no damage would be done to any trees or vegetation.
The main purpose of this letter is to obtain the sanction of our State Forestry Service before undertaking this work. When completed, we would send you a detailed route of the trail and it’s name.
Enclosed please find one of our schedules which will help to acquaint you with our organization.
Morris Bardock, President
Batona Hiking Club
And the reply from Salvatore A. Bontempo:
Sate of New Jersey
Department of Conservation
And Economic Development
Office of the commissioner
February 10, 1961
Mr. Morris Bardock, President
Batona Hiking Club
1233 Princess Avenue
Camden3, New Jersey
Dear Mr. Bardock:
Thank you for your letter concerning a hiking trail in the Wharton and the Lebanon State Forest.
I have asked Mr. J.C. MacDonald, General manager of Wharton Tract and Mr. J. P. Allen, Superintendent of the Lebanon State Forest to see if there is anything they can do to be helpful. Mr. MacDonald will be in touch with you directly.
I am pleased to know of the interest that your group has in conservation and recreation activities.
Salvatore A, Bontempo
The letter from J. C. MacDonald that Mr. Bontempo mentioned would soon arrive. Notice it was written the same day.
State of New Jersey
Wharton Tract Office
Green Bank, R.D.#2
Egg Harbor City, NJ.
February 10, 1961
Mr Morris Bardock
Batona Hiking Club
1233 Princess Ave
Camden3, New Jersey
Dear Mr. Bardock,
Reference is made to your letter to Commissioner Bontempo concerning the establishment of a hiking trail connecting Wharton Tract and Lebanon State Forest.
We will be happy to cooperate with you in carrying out this project. We have regional maps and other information available at the Wharton Tract office at Green Bank, New Jersey (Telephone WOrth5-1367W) and will be glad to take you over the area on an inspection tour. Our office is open from 8AM to 5PM, Monday to Friday. We would prefer to have advance notice of your coming so we can have transportation available.
February 18, 1961- A letter was written to Mr. MacDonald stating our plan and suggesting a meeting date.
February 21, 1961- Letter received from Mr. MacDonald setting a meeting date of Saturday, March 11.
February 27, 1961- Letter sent to Mr. MacDonald acknowledging the meeting date.
March 11, 1961- Had meeting at Green Bank office. Mr. MacDonald couldn’t come. We met his assistant Sid Walker. We had a friendly discussion on plans.
April 13, 1961- Letter written to Mr. MacDonald requesting an additional meeting on April 29, at park office.
April 17, 1961- Reply received from Mr. Walker confirming meeting on April 2.
April 29, 1961- Meeting held with Mr. Walker. Discussed advanced details of trail, and agreed to call it Batona Trail.
May 4, 1961- Received letter from Mr. Walker informing us that Mr. J. P. Allen, Superintendent of Lebanon would like to meet with us.
May 6,1961- Letter written to Mr. Allen suggesting a meeting May 20.
May 8, 1961- Letter received from Mr. Allen confirming meeting.
May 20, 1961- Had a friendly meeting with Mr. Allen and discussed the trail work through Lebanon Forest.
May 23, 1961- Letter written to Mr. MacDonald mentioning meeting with Mr. Allen, and requesting official permission to begin trail work.
May 26, 1961- Received letter from Mr. Walker giving official permission to start work on Batona Trail.
July 7, 1961- Letter written to Mr. Walker to give progress report on trail work.
August 15, 1961- Letter written to Mr. Walker to give second progress report.
August 18, 1961- Acknowledgment of “Progress Report” received from Mr. Walker.
August 19, 1961- Unscheduled meeting held with Mr. Allen of Lebanon to discuss trail work.
August 26, 1961- Had meeting with Mr. Allen. We met Mr. Mitchner, Chief Ranger of this area. He inspected trial work in this area, and found it satisfactory. He and Mr. Allen agreed to build log bridge over two streams at Pakim Pond. Mr. Mitchner suggested using existing trail beyond Carpenter Spring. Dale Knapschafer and Morris Bardock checked it, and found it satisfactory.
September 3, 1961- Walt Korszniak took George Sommer over the route to make sketches for the Batona schedule.
October 3, 1961- Letter written to Mr. Walker for meeting to give trail mileage and discuss final details.
October 9, 1961- Received answer from Mr. Walker that he couldn’t meet us on the 14th, but suggested the 21st.
October 13, 1961- Wrote Mr. Walker that we couldn’t meet on the 21st because of a Catskill camping trip, and suggested October 28.
October 28, 1961- Met with Mr. Walker. Settled final questions, and gave mileage for a system of signs.
The next paragraph undoubtedly refers to the many parcels of land that we know of as “Chatsworth Woods,” the failed development that the brick pillars at the entrance to Ringler Ave leading to Apple Pie Hill were made for.
May 13, 1961- Morris Bardock and Dale Knapschafer went to Chatsworth to see Mr. Schiess, the township tax assessor, in regard to some private parcels of land. He informed us that the land from 532 south to Apple Pie Hill was divided into small parcels, and that the owners had not stepped near the land in 30 years. He also stated that the owners would be almost untraceable without extensive research. He assured us that no one would know or care if we blazed the trail through there.
The half mile trail from 532 north, to the the gravel road is owned by Mr. Sloan of Chatsworth; the third gray house before the railroad, on the right, on 563 going south. We stopped there but Mr. Sloan was not in. We spoke with Mrs. Sloan, who was most pleasant and agreeable. She told us she was sure it would be alright with her husband and she would tell him. She told us to just go ahead and put up the blazes.
1978- Added 2 1/2 mile extension at northern end, to Ong’s Hat.
1978- Added 9 mile extension at southern end, to 563, Evan’s Bridge.
1987- Added 9 mile extension to southern end, to Stage Road.
Building the Batona Trail, The Original 30 Miles
During, February, March, April, and May, 1961, Walt Korszniak and Morris Bardock made exploratory trips almost every week-end to layout the route of the trail. Dale Knapschafer and Paul Peichaski took part in several of these trips.
The Work Trips-1961
June 17- Morris Bardock, Al & Osea McDonald
June 18- Morris Bardock, Walt Korszniak, Paul Peichaski, Al Shane
June 25-Morris Bardock, Walt Korszniak
July 1- Morris Bardock, Bud Carter, George (scout)
July 2- Morris Bardock, Walt Korszniak
July 8-Morris Bardock, Walt Korszniak
July 9-Morris Bardock, Al and Osea McDonald
July 22-Morris Bardock, Walt Korszniak
July 23-Morris Bardock, Walt Korszniak, Dale Knapschafer
July 28-Morris Bardock, Walt Korszniak
August 5-Morris Bardock, Dale Knapschafer
August 6-Morris Bardock, Walt Korszniak, Bud Carter
August 12-Morris Bardock, Walt Korszniak
August 19-Morris Bardock, Walt Korszniak
August 26-Morris Bardock, Dale Knapschafer
September 3-Morris Bardock, Dale Knapschafer
September 4-Morris Bardock, Dale Knapschafer
September 16-Morris Bardock, Walt Korszniak, Paul Peichaski, Dale Knapschafer, Bud Carter, Al & Osea McDonald
September 23-Morris Bardock, Paul Peichaski, Al & Osea McDonald made trail measurement with measuring wheel.
September 30-Walt Korszniak, and Dale Knapschafer completed the trail measuring.
October 14-Walt Korszniak, wife Dot, and children worked on the streams north of Carranza.
This letter shows his concern about the history of the trail.
February 1, 1999 (Includes Morris Bardocks home address)
Dear Mr. Salice,
Not long ago as I sat musing on Batona Trail and the early days of it’s construction, it suddenly dawned on me that no where was there any official detailed record of how the trail came to be. People in the future would be inquiring about the how, when, and why of the trail, no one would be able to answer. I felt that perhaps there aught to be an official state record of the trails history.
Fortunately, I had kept a detailed running record at the time, of everything as it happened. I gathered all this together and set it up in a somewhat organized form.
If you and any other related parties agree that there ought to be an official state record, or archive, on the history of the Batona Trail, please feel free to use any of the enclosed data, or any portion of it, in any way that you see fit.
I hope everything has been well with you, and that everything is going smoothly in Trenton.