Controversy has swirled around Split Rock Reservoir even before before it opened to the public. When the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection obtained a recreation easement for the Jersey City owned impoundment and announced the construction of a parking area and car top boat launch, local residents joined together to oppose the project. They cited concerns about increased traffic and litter, but some suspected that they simply wanted Split Rock to remain as their private playground.
Despite the protests, the DEP opened Split Rock in November of 2004 and it soon became a popular destination for paddle sports enthusiasts and fishermen (all fishing must be from boats, as shore fishing is not allowed at Split Rock). The increased visibility also brought picnickers, campers, shore anglers, swimmers and cliff divers, all activities that are illegal at Split Rock. The problem was exacerbated by a number of popular YouTube videos showing people enjoying these illegal activities, which encouraged more of it.
By 2010 the local residents had enough and Rockaway Township authorities moved to ban parking along the entire length of Split Rock Road and used concrete blocks to close off the DEP parking area. Town officials demanded increased DEP patrols and asked the state to grant their police department the authority to patrol the reservoir and issue citations to violators. The parking area was reopened once the DEP agreed to both stipulations, however the no parking ordinance on Split Rock Road is still strictly enforced.
After several years of relative quiet, a new controversy stirred recently when the DEP announced plans to move forward with the construction of a concrete boat ramp, paved road, dock and an additional parking area for boaters. The current boat launch requires boaters to carry their craft 150 feet down a steep hillside to a difficult, boulder lined put-in at the water’s edge. This tends to discourage all but the most serious paddlers and fishermen and helps limit crowds on this pristine body of water. The boat ramp will allow trailered boats access to the waterway and is designed to accommodate boats up to 20 feet long. Boonton resident Dudy Schindler expressed concern in a letter to The Daily Record that the ramp project was approved without public comment and that the construction violates the Highlands Act. Others are concerned that the ramp will bring additional crowds towing large, motorized bass boats and spoil the semi-wilderness feel of the reservoir.