Chilled Off Again
It never did reach the promised highs today, but stayed hovering around 48 or so, with brief periods of warmer sunshine--mostly clouds. I opted out of doing anything with the horses.
So, I will, instead, continue my rant about the ATV's and motorcycles on the State lands.
As Merri noted, they tear up the trails badly. Once lovely woodland roads I used to bike over as a child now have low spots of mud puddles and ruts. I don't even dare go out around the lake in back--a former sandpit--if it's been wet as parts of the road around it are virtually impassible without worry that you and horse are going to sink into an undefined swamp. It's too bad because it was once a really nice ride around the water.
There are no real authorities to report illegal riders to either. The local police could do something if they were there to witness the riders and upon occasion have issued some citations, but the lands are well off the public roadways. The general rule is that the police do not want to chase riders because that could cause accidents and they do not have all terrain vehicles to follow them into the trails.
The State Park officials are non involved in this park. No park rangers are assigned here, and as a passive recreation area with no developed access, it's largely ignored. The last time I called about the problem, some rangers came out and posted signs, but many of them were quickly torn down or shot full of holes by hunters--I hope they were hunters. There is a forest fire station nearby, but those guys don't seem to be too involved in any kind of patrolling either.
I thought of noting the license plate number of the cyclists's pickup truck, but thought better of it. If I had reported them and they put two and two together, I'd worry that they might decide to do something to my horses since my pasture and paddocks border the Parkland. That's also why I didn't say anything to them as I certainly didn't want to antagonize them--although they did seem like decent kids.
There are not a lot of other places for them to ride. The hot spot used to be on the other side of the Turnpike. ATV riders would show up from all over with flatbeds and ride the hundred or so acres destroying a good lot of the farmer's cornfield and eroding the banks of an already insufficient detention basin. It was not legal for them to be there either, but at least it was not State Parkland. Once or twice the police raided them, but kids from the school where I taught were totally convinced it was OK to ride there.
A couple issues bother me about all of this beyond the horse safety and annoyance problem.
First, as I think I noted in and earlier blog, a young ATV rider was killed out there a few months ago. That unleashed a controversy about whether or not anyone--including horseback riders--should be allowed on some of the property. Now, everytime I see one of these motor riders, I worry. I am thinking I should have said something to these kids, but I was too preoccupied with trying to keep Tucker under control. I think a warning to be careful might have been in order.
Second, there is a conflict here with the fact that I now know for sure that "out of towners" are riding on the land. I could ALMOST understand some of the local kids's being out there if the Park is actually in their back yard., (It's still wrong, but at least they are neighbors.) but I am not keen about people from other areas shipping in to ride. There's also the worry that someone not too nice might show up. The farmer up the road had the ATV he uses to plow snow stolen from his yard last year. Fortunately, it must have run out of gas because he found it out along the woods as if someone had left it there to pick up later. So, who knows who may be riding out there?
Third, there is complete lack of respect for the natural resources of the area. Aside from trashing the footing with their vehicles, I'm pretty sure a lot of these riders are responsible for the bags of trash I carted out of the woods this week. They park, ride and then have an after ride party, leaving all their trash behind. They were also riding around the banks of the lake last year, ripping up the soil and destroying vegetation and animal habitats, including what appeared to be a beaver den.
Simply posting signs will do little if there is no enforcement. The State needs to have a presence there, even if patrols are random. And they need to prosecute cases. Vehicles can be confiscated and there is a $1000 fine possible. Trouble is, with budget crunches and constant cut backs in the park system, I don't think that's ever going to happen.
I'm not sure what the best solution is. However, if we do get parts of the Park open and encourage hikers, joggers, more horseback riders, and bicyclists to use the trails, there's a good chance public pressure would drive the ATV riders out. The would just not be welcome and those who enjoy the quiet of the forest would make that really clear.
So for now, all I can hope for is that gas prices will discourage a lot of the recreational riding. And I'll just avoid going out on the trail during the times the ATV's are like to be there.
As one of you said, it's really a shame. I have all that room to roam and ride right in my back yard and I just don't feel safe using it.