New Byram ATV unit already put to test

| 28 Sep 2011 | 02:50

    BYRAM-Just weeks old, Byram's new ATV unit had a tough initiation when it was called to assist in the recent efforts to locate a small plane crash victim in Hardyston. On June 19 a Cessna 182Q piloted by Roland Melanson went down in a heavily wooded area on Hamburg Mountain just minutes after takeoff from Sussex Airport. Byran's newly ATV trained officers were called in to assist in a search that took several days before the victim and the plane wreckage were located. According to Officer Pete Zabita, it was not an easy ride. "It was very difficult, very rough terrain," said Zabita. "It was quite an initiation." The use of the ATVs in the search and rescue operation demonstrates, according to acting Police Chief Ray Rafferty, the need and versatility of the vehicles. When first introduce, many residents believed the new vehicles would be used exclusively to monitor ATV traffic in the municipality. The issue of regulating the use of ATVs has proven controversial in Byram, with many residents wanting public land be opened to ATV traffic. Those in the opposite camp say that action would not only endanger the people using the public parks, but also cause environmental damage and noise pollution. "Search and rescue is the main purpose," said chief Rafferty. However, he acknowledged the four-wheelers will be used to enforce the current ban on ATVs on public land. "We will periodically patrol bike and walking paths prevent unauthorized use. We will be doing that at random." According to the chief, the mission of the new unit is clearly established. "A lot of landowners on the north side of town have a problem with people sneaking in (with ATVs) and trespassing," said Rafferty. "But that falls under trespassing and really isn't a matter for this unit." Two Byram officers spent two days training with the Morris County Park Police. "There was a lot of riding, lot's of different terrain," said Zabita. "It was a safety course to avoid injury and we trained in a classroom setting as well." The Byram Police Department plans to have a total of four officers trained on ATVs operations shortly. The funding for the units as well as the training was provided by a grant from the Hudson Family Foundation.