Southington police will be patrolling town and Water Department land in an entirely reasonable effort to curtail illegal ATV and dirt bike use. They are not out to spoil anyone’s fun; they are simply trying to keep irresponsible riders of those machines from spoiling town trails and dams.
Illegal riders damaged trails and dams at local reservoirs this past spring when the ground was muddy. Tearing up the grass on dams leads to erosion that could eventually cause the dams to fail. Damage from recreational riding must be repaired, and that costs the taxpayers money.
In addition, residents who seek to peacefully enjoy hiking on the town’s open-space parcels sometimes find their recreation ruined by hard-charging ATV, dirt bike and quad riders.
"Somebody's out there with family, walking through," said police Lt. Stephen Elliott. "They don't really want a quad tearing by them."
Therefore, police will be conducting extra patrols on ATVs in an attempt to make arrests. Elliott said he hopes the word gets out that police will be cracking down.
"Maybe they won't be there and won't go there," he said. "There's a preventative part of this, too."
The Water Department is providing the police with ATV “hotspots” based on where tracks and damage often occur. These incidents also expose the town to potential liability when illegal riders are hurt.
ATVs and dirt bikes aren't allowed on public or Water Department land and can only be ridden on private land with the owner's permission.
Illegal riders of these machines are a problem in many Connecticut towns, where they play cat-and-mouse with local authorities. Southington is well justified in going after them.