All Terrain Vehicles (ATV)

                Toward the end of the snow season, I became aware of an increase of ATV traffic on the snowmobile/ski trails which cut across the back end of my property. Several other landowners mentioned the same thing. We were all concerned with the same potential problem, that of the damage that ATV's can do to wood trails and paths, particularly in those early days of spring when the ground is soft and water-saturated. With that in mind, I decided to close my own sections of the paths, at least until the ground hardened up after the spring run-off.

        I have nothing in particular against ATVs, although I must admit to having a hard time to understand how young, healthy people (especially) can prefer them to walking in the woods. The other day I was returning home after a three hour ramble over my paths. I had been working on a bit of brush clearing, admiring the spring flowers and enjoying the myriad songs of the birds all around me. I had heard partridge, seen squirrels and a rabbit, found where the local moose had been hanging out and where an early foraging bear had attacked an old stump for the insects he hoped to find.

        I was within a kilometer of home when I chanced across two young men struggling to move their ATVs through a very narrow gap between two rows of trees in a place where they were not supposed to be. I informed them that they were trespassing and that the land had been posted. One of them apologized and told me that he had not seen the sign (it turned out that he was probably right: the sign had come down over the winter). I accepted his apology and our conversation turned to other things.

        "Sure is quiet in the woods this morning', he said. "We haven't seen a thing."

        I recalled all the birds I had been hearing, the small animals that I had seen and the abundant signs of life everywhere - and I couldn't help but think: "Well, it's no wonder with all the noise you make on those machines."

        These young fellows were quite typical of ATV owners I have encountered over the years. They were polite, apologetic when they realized that they were, in fact, trespassing, and generally courteous. They were also, I could tell, genuinely puzzled as to why I would object to their using my paths, even though one had only to glance behind them to the crushed vegetation, the tire ruts, the scarred trees to get an inkling for my objections. More to the point, though, was the unspoken assumption that, because they owned these things that can go just about anywhere, they had the right to do so. They also assume, all too often, that if they encounter muddy stretches, overgrown trees or other obstacles, they can do whatever to "make it better" for themselves. And that is where much of the problem lies - and why I have chosen to close my roads, at least until the ground hardens up to bear some traffic and until I can get a chance myself to remove obstructing branches and deadfalls in a way that I find acceptable.

        Most landowners with whom I have discussed the problem agree that ATV owners are going to have to get together to monitor their own actions in the same way that snowmobile owners have. They are going to have to address the same issues. They are, as I see them:

(1)         to educate ATV drivers on the proper handling of machines in wet, soft, thick, or otherwise sensitive conditions. (Television ads of ATVs tearing through brooks and through great stretches of muddy back roads create impressions of actions which are simply unacceptable to most landowners, including this one.);

(2)        to ensure that they have permission to travel over private land and that they respect the landowner's specifications as to where they can go; and

(3)         to exercise some sort of internal control over the rogue ATV owners or drivers.

        We can live together, but ATV owners have to accept that they are the ones who need to have our cooperation. After all, they need us a great deal more than we need them.


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