All-terrain vehicle use drive complaints

| 28 Sep 2011 | 02:18

    BYRAM-Deer, bears, land developers. Now, add another to the long line of people and things competing for open space in Sussex County n all-terrain vehicles; or, as they are known lately to some residents in Byram Township: "public nuisances." "They're a major problem," said Lou Esposito, a Byram Township councilman who has first hand knowledge of off-road vehicles crossing on his property. "It's a nightmare." ATVs, those small, three- or four-wheel motor vehicles, are a common sight these days in and around Byram, particularly along the "cutoff," an abandoned railroad bed that stretches from Hopatcong through the center of town in Andover and on toward the Delaware River. To some, ATVs are no more bothersome than a leaf blower in October, but to others, they are a year-round aggravation. "This has been going on for months," said Scott Olsen, a seven-year Byram resident who addressed the issue before the township council this week. "It's going to continue on through the winter." Throw in the fact that their designs are made for rugged natural landscapes including streams, wetlands, lakes, forests and deep slopes -- much like those in Byram -- and it's no wonder why ATV enthusiasts are flocking to township trails. "They are driving through streams and ponds n something that should be paid attention to," said Olsen. "They're actually cutting down trees; chain sawing out paths. It's not so much a noise issue, but a violation of environmentally sensitive areas." Olsen has seen the ATVs on a piece of property behind where he lives. He said about 60 acres, which sit in the middle of a housing development, is slated to be given to the township for open space preservation. He fears the township will receive the property in damaged condition. "They can really tear up the land," said Margaret McGarrity, who sits on the township environmental commission and open space committee. "It's a problem in a lot of places. In Byram, we have natural landscapes that are susceptible to destruction. A lot of the people don't understand ATVs can be harmful." Even the township police has been forced to make adjustments to deal with the issue. According to township manager Greg Poff, the Hudson Farm Foundation donated $19,000 to the township that went toward the purchase of two new ATVs and a trailer for the Byram police earlier this month. Officials believe the vehicles will increase the accessibility of the Byram police to remote areas in the township and assist in controlling the illegal operation of ATVs. Esposito, would also like to see more teeth put into existing trespassing laws. ATVs are currently prohibited from operating on public park lands, but the penalty for doing so is only $25. "The trespassing part is where the problem occurs," said Esposito. "It's an antiquated law that needs to be looked at."