Like millions of people each year, maybe you turn to Google Maps. The web site conveniently allows users to input a starting point and a final destination, and with one click, users get detailed directions.
But for Laurie Gneiding, Google Maps has been anything but convenient.
Since 1987, Gneiding and her husband Michael Brady have lived in one of three log homes found at the end of a quarter-mile long driveway in Clinton Township. The homes back Round Valley State Park, which boasts swimming, boating and camping in summer, and cross country skiing and sledding in the winter.
“We’re surrounded on three sides by woods with the state park as our ‘backyard,’” Gneiding said “We love being in the midst of nature.”
But in the past three years, along with visits from a bald eagle, bear, coyote, foxes and dozens of species of birds, the couple has had a new kind of visitor: humans looking for the entrance to the state park.
“It started with one or two people but last year dozens of people were coming up,” she said. “This year, someone told us that the directions for Round Valley State Park on Google Maps led them to our driveway.”
Before realizing the wrong directions came from Google Maps, Gneiding and her neighbors did what they could to stop the traffic in the driveway.
Last summer, they erected four signs. Two, at the bottom of the driveway, say “No Trespassing” and “No Trespassing, Private Road.” The third sign is about 50 feet up the driveway, saying “Private Drive.” The fourth sign, Gneiding said, is on her property boundary and says “No Trespassing.”
“I have no way of telling if they were effective for some, but many people chose to ignore them and come up anyway,” she said.
This year, she took it a step further, spending $125 on a 8-foot-long orange traffic barricade, onto which she attached signs that say “Private Driveway/Private Residence” and “No Park Access.”
“It goes across the driveway at the top of the hill on Friday nights and stays there each weekend and holiday, like July 4th,” she said. “Anytime we need to leave the house we have to move it or put it back.”
Fearing an increase in traffic for July 4th weekend, Gneiding said she made a new sign on a sheet of plywood. It sits at the bottom of the driveway, saying, “NOT Park Entrance… Private Driveway… Google Maps is wrong!”
Drivers tried for park access anyway.
There’s more than just nuisance at play, Gneiding said. While many mistaken visitors — like the one who pulled a trailered boat up the driveway on a Sunday morning at 6:45 — are polite and apologetic, others are not, she said. She told Bamboozled tales of some who were angry, using foul language that makes recent comments about Gov. Chris Christie by Senate President Stephen Sweeney (D-Gloucester) sound like they were coming from a Girl Scout.
The angry responses make Gneiding nervous, she said. And it’s one thing when she’s home, she said, but what could happen if she’s out when unhappy, cranky or party-seeking park-goers start up the driveway?
“My biggest fear is coming home someday and having ‘visitors’ in my backyard pool or something happening to my dogs when they’re in their outside pen,” she said of her three rescue Labrador-mix dogs.
So in mid-May, when a friendly motorist with a bicycle rack and New York plates told Gneiding his directions came from Google Maps, she was hopeful.
Gneiding used the site’s “Report a problem” tool on May 21, requesting a correction.
She received a response on June 3 in which the error was noted. Google said the directions would be corrected and she’d be contacted when the fix was in.
Time passed and she heard nothing, so she emailed four more times. Twice she received no response, and twice, an auto-reply.
More than six weeks after her initial complaint — at least through the July 4th weekend — state park visitors continued to head up her driveway seeking the park. That’s when she contacted Bamboozled.
THE ERROR AND THE FIX
Bamboozled spent some time with Google Maps to see where the error originated.
The site offers a handy tool. If you don’t have an exact address but you’re searching for a landmark, you can start typing the landmark’s name and different options appear so you can select your exact location.
Round Valley State Park includes the Round Valley State Recreation Area. In the middle of the park is the Round Valley Reservoir, a 2,000 acre lake that’s stocked with trout and reaches depths of approximately 180 feet deep, making it the deepest lake in New Jersey.
If a Google Maps user enters the “Round Valley State Park” or “Round Valley Recreation Area,” they’re directed to the proper park entrance on Route 629. Entering the actual address of the park, found on the park’s website, also brings drivers to the correct directions. But if they enter the “Round Valley Reservoir,” they’re directed to Gneiding’s driveway.
Out of curiosity, Bamboozled also toyed around with that other online map website, and it had the correct directions for all three Round Valley park destinations.
We called Google Maps to see if it could hurry the fix.
A spokeswoman said Google is on the case, but she couldn’t offer any guidance on timing.
“It often depends on the type of change and how extensive it might be,” said Deanna Yick.
In other words, Gneiding and her neighbors will have to wait it out.
Yick said users can let Google know about problems by using the “Report a problem” tool on the bottom right corner of the map page, which is exactly what Gneiding did — five times.
“We recognize that there may be occasional inaccuracies and appreciate the feedback we get about how to improve our tools,” she said. “We apologize for any frustration the direction error has caused.”
We’ll let you know how long it takes for the directions to be corrected.