PLYMOUTH JAM SESSION: Should Plymouth crack down on OHV riders?

Jam session is an opinion forum offering comments on issues from a group of Plymouth residents. It appears on the Forum pages in the Weekend edition of the OCM.

The newspaper poses a question to the group each week, and participants choose whether to comment. This column is designed to bring the voices of well-informed residents into the Forum page to address issues, one at a time.

Participants cross the local political spectrum and live throughout the town. Some are current or past Town Meeting representatives, and all are active in the community. We hope their diverse points of view will encourage discussion of the issues Plymouth faces.


This week’s question

According to some, OHV’s (off highway vehicles) have nowhere to go in Plymouth. Some OHV riders hit the trails (and forests) anyway, sometimes resulting in accidents or environmental damage. Should Plymouth crack down on OHV riders? Create an OHV riding area on town land? Do nothing about this?

Pat Adelmann

I find OHVs to be too dangerous, noisy, and disruptive to the environment. The tragic deaths of Sean Kearney and James Ward are still fresh in my memory. The Consumer Product Safety Commission reports that in 2014 there were 385 deaths and 93,700 emergency room-treated injuries from OHV related accidents. Massachusetts has the strictest regulations for the operation of OHVs in the country but has inadequate resources for enforcement.

Designating a safe area for OHVs in Plymouth, where natural resources and humans would not be disturbed, is challenging. Perhaps OHV trails should be developed by private enterprises. Raise the registration and licensing fees enough to cover enforcement.

Pat Adelmann has been a Plymouth resident for 39 years and is a mother of five Plymouth Public School graduates, a proud grandmother of 12, a former School Committee member and a Town Meeting member.

Ed Angley

As much as OHVs may be irritating, I do not think OHVs are even close to being the biggest issue facing the town. We have limited police resources which need to be allocated by the chief as he sees best. Creating an OHV riding area would be a great idea. I am sure the OHV riders would build it. Now, setting aside the land should be fun. When we get to it, the eco-terrorists will be out in force coming up with reasons why the chosen ground is “sacred.” So, again, it isn’t going to happen. We could deputize citizens to throw themselves in front of OHVs. But I have work to do.

Ed Angley is an attorney specializing in zoning and land use. He is a former Scout leader and coach.

Jay Beauregard

I have no strong feelings on this.

In my opinion we have too few law enforcement officers and I know that there are (in my opinion) many more laws that are being under enforced that could use their attention.

I say do nothing. I’d rather an officer was after drug dealers than someone who was out riding their OHV.

Jay Beauregard, born and raised in Plymouth, served four years in the Marine Corps and has worked for 36 years at a local company. He is a Libertarian who served three terms as a Town Meeting rep from Precinct 6.

Mike Landers

This reminds me of the skateboarder problems in downtown, some years ago. Property was being damaged, reckless operation caused serious safety concerns, etc.

There were those who were demanding prosecution, but a few of us felt that we needed to give them a place of their own, before banning them from downtown.

Hence, Mike Botieri (then a police captain), Russ Shirley, myself and a group of very involved teenagers, mustered labor, materials, equipment, design and implementation, etc., on a shoestring, labor was done by volunteer town workers, parents, etc., much of the materials were donated, creating the skate park on South Street. It is still being used today.

With so much town owned land, there must be a parcel where trails, jumps, etc., could be developed. Once that is done, thought could be given to “cracking down.”

Give them a place to practice their sport before punishing them.

Mike Landers is a Town Meeting representative and is the founder and producer of Project Arts of Plymouth. He is also the owner of Nightlife Music Company and is a performing musician.

Doug O’Roak

Yes, absolutely we need more legal places where you can ride an ATV or dirt bike.

I consider myself an environmental advocate, so I completely see why it’s bad to ride in environmentally sensitive areas. I also understand the safety aspects of riding loud, fast vehicles where people may be hiking or riding horses. Then, of course, there are all the liability issues.

On the flip side, I grew up riding dirt bikes. As a young teen I rode on dirt roads, bog roads, power lines, sand pits, wooded trails and through fields and meadows. I had no idea what was private land, public land, or what was environmentally sensitive. It was a different era.

Today, I do know better. I don’t ride anywhere, and don’t let my sons ride, because I know there is nowhere legal for us to ride.

But that doesn’t mean I don’t want to.

With 100 square miles of land in Plymouth, I would imagine it wouldn’t be hard to identify an area where riding is legal. I think most folks who ride want to do so in a legal and environmentally safe area.

Good luck to this committee; I wish them success in their goal!

Doug O’Roak is creative director at C/F Data Systems, a member of the Open Space and Charter Review committees and a Town Meeting rep. He has served on several boards and committees and is past master of Plymouth’s Masonic Lodge.

David Peck

I am no fan of off road vehicles, two wheel, three wheel or four wheel. I enjoy walking and biking in the woods around Plymouth and the South Shore, and find these vehicles very disturbing to my quiet enjoyment of the environment. They are noisy, and damaging to the trails we (reluctantly) share. However, I recognize that other fellow citizens do take pleasure in their off road vehicles, and therefore am disinclined to completely ban them everywhere. Rather, the idea of creating a specific riding park for off road vehicles (far away from me, please) makes sense. Riders of ATVs and dirt bikes would pay for a permit, the costs of which would cover trail repairs and mitigation of dangerous areas. Everywhere else in town: enforcement of a policy of no off road vehicles.

David Peck is the retired director of Facility Planning at Boston Children’s Hospital. He serves as the chairman of the Plymouth Building Committee and vice-chairman of the Zoning Board of Appeals. He is a Town Meeting representative from Precinct 4.

Ed Russell

ORVs are banned mainly because of environmental destruction and noise. The problem with a dedicated ORV place is that their noise travels for miles. Ironically, noise is one of the main objections and, at the same time, it’s one of the main joys for youth driving them. ORVs are a macho thing and even if more powerful electric ORV’s were offered at $1,000 off, riders would still opt for the mean-sounding machines. ORV operators would get in a lot less trouble and face a lot less hostility, if they had adequate mufflers, but manufacturers wouldn’t be able to sell quieter machines. Enforcement is the answer.

Ed Russell is an attorney and a Precinct 12 Town Meeting representative, and he serves on a number of town committees.

Meg Sheehan

Plymouth doesn’t need to crack down on riders – rather it should take a leadership role in the great effort underway to support responsible riding. Currently, local riders are actively participating in a collaborative effort to implement a visionary trail program. Attracting responsible riders to town by offering a well-planned trail system for safe and exciting riding can benefit the local economy while also preserving other areas for passive recreational users. It’s a win-win.

Plymouth should take a leadership role in this effort to implement a program like those in New Hampshire and Maine. Those states require riders to register their vehicles and use the money to establish trails and protocols for their use. Plymouth can be a model for other towns. The town should engage with the OHV community and work with private property owners and town planners from abutting towns to develop a visionary, sustainable OHV parks and trails system. These trails can provide riders with safe and enjoyable riding experiences while at the same time protecting our forests and private property rights, and complying with forest and conservation laws.

This is not a radical idea. Boaters register their boats and have restrictions on where and how they can drive. In Plymouth, golfing is restricted to golf courses. There is no reason why OHVs should have free reign to ride anywhere and anytime – especially given the risks they pose to other trail users and the damage to the environment that is caused by riding in the wrong places. Let’s work together for the interests of the community.

Meg Sheehan is a fourth generation native of Plymouth and graduated from Plymouth Carver Regional High School. She has a JD from Boston College Law School and has been a public interest environmental lawyer for over 30 years. She is passionate about preserving Plymouth’s open space and community character, including its beaches, Coastal Plain Ponds, and Pine Barrens. She is often found walking in the woods looking for rare plants, turtles and dragonflies.

Roger Silva

Providing expensive trails on town land may just be a waste as many OHV’s will continue to ride the power lines and cross roads like Long Pond Road illegally. They do not respect private property. At one time they chain sawed a utility pole barrier to maintain access to cross Long Pond Road. I guess you could build a wall, but who can we get to pay for it!

Roger Silva is a former five-term Plymouth selectman who began public service as an elected Town Meeting member. He has served on the Advisory and Finance Committee and was elected to serve on two charter commissions.

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