Vandalism threatens access to local, scenic recreational trail

Kathy McCarty, Special to The County
17 years ago

   PRESQUE ISLE, Maine – Continuing problems with vandalism has one local landowner considering closing access to a scenic recreational trail that currently runs through his property.     “The increase of minor vandalism, theft, litter in the form of broken beer bottles and defacing my grounds by people on four-wheelers is starting to wear on me,” said Paul Cyr, a property owner on State Street Extension whose allowed all varieties of recreational use of a trail that provides a throughway from State Street to the Conant Road area.
Cyr said the weekends seem to be the biggest problem, with increased activity beginning on Friday.
“There’s also more speeding, especially on Friday afternoons. My ‘no trespassing’ signs are repeatedly taken down and tossed into the woods or disappear completely,” said Cyr.
Also of concern to Cyr is the misconception that a gazebo he built on his own property for private use actually belongs to the ATV club.
“I would also like to correct the rumor that the gazebo is the ATV club’s. It’s mine. On several occasions the nice people I’ve been escorting out of it have been telling me (it’s the club’s and not mine),” said Cyr of the structure he built for his own use.
Cyr said the problems aren’t new but have been taking place ever since the trail was created.
“These problems have been going on since the trail was put in years ago. You don’t have thousands of people go through a well-developed area without some issues. It’s just that recently it has been escalating, especially since many ATVers think the gazebo is a club rest stop,” said Cyr, noting on several occasions he’s had to go up and shut the windows. “People always leave them open. If I don’t close them, the rain will ruin the interior.”
The Presque Isle Police Department patrolled the area regularly on ATV through the month of July, along with trails throughout the city’s jurisdiction, thanks to a grant.
“We received a grant for patrolling trails for just over $10,500, covering the period of May 1 through July 31. That grant has run out and we weren’t able to obtain a second grant we applied for,” said Chief Naldo Gagnon.
Gagnon said his department was contacted by Cyr about the problems and the PIPD will be beefing up patrols in the area.
“We’re increasing our efforts in that area of town, both on and off the trail. We’re working with Paul to try to resolve the matter to his satisfaction,” said Gagnon. “That’s a major connector to north/south recreational activity. We’ll do what we can to address and solve the problem to keep that link open.”
Gagnon said it’s his belief that the parties responsible for causing all the problems aren’t actual ATV club members.
“The department doesn’t think club members are responsible. Such activity usually involves individuals who aren’t members – just lone riders or small groups of troublemakers,” said Gagnon. “If anyone sees anything suspicious on area trails or knows who is responsible, they should contact the department at 764-4476 to report such information.”
The Star City ATV Club works closely with local police and local landowners trying to maintain a safe trail system throughout the city. Members are encouraged to pick up trash when they see it on the trails, whether it’s theirs or not.
“We encourage all club members to pick trash up and carry it out with them, whether they created it or someone else did,” said Club President Dick Howlett.
The club also encourages ATV registration, riding to the right on the trails, operating at a safe speed, watching for other recreational trail users and not allowing underage operation. Club members have a variety of club activities to take part in throughout the season. Howlett encourages ATV users to become a member of a club, with dues going to maintain trails for all to enjoy. The club also encourages good user/landowner relations.
“We work closely with landowners, trying to ensure trails are used properly. But when an ATV rider misuses a trail, usually they’re not club members but it’s the clubs that have to deal with repairing damage and restoring the relationship between the property owner and trail users,” said Bob Good, public relations director for the SCATV.
Cyr’s gazebo sits atop a hill overlooking an adjoining field. ATV riders have turned the hill into their own obstacle course, rutting up the grass from the top of the hill to the bottom.
“The grass was just starting to grow back where the nice people on ATVs had torn it up last month. Those nice people returned and ripped it up again. I blocked it off with a V-plow and a huge piece of wood, hoping that might deter them,” said Cyr.
Cyr, a photographer, has considered putting in motion-sensitive cameras to try to catch the culprits, but said he’s afraid they’ll destroy the cameras too.
“I’ve thought of putting up a game camera, but I’m afraid they’ll steal that too. I had a nice life-sized deer target that got lifted a few weeks ago,” said Cyr.
Cyr said if the problems don’t stop, he may have no choice but to close the trail to public use.
“Maybe a different trail location should be looked into. Any help would be appreciated,” said Cyr.