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ATV users driving landowners mad with ugly scarring, late-night rides

SHARE ATV users driving landowners mad with ugly scarring, late-night rides

It looks like Grand Central Station out there at night, Wes Walker says of his property in the foothills area above Pleasant Grove.

Walker, who has been on his 40 acres (he used to have 125 acres) for 76 years, said people are driving all-terrain and other off-road vehicles all over his private property all night long.

Similar situations are occurring throughout this area on county, city, private and federal lands. Some Pleasant Grove residents say problems are increasing because of the tremendous population growth of the Lindon and Pleasant Grove area.

Monday, the National Forest Service, the Utah County Sheriff's Office, Pleasant Grove Police Department and residents got together to discuss how problems should be handled and to come up with possible solutions.

All involved recognize there are various problems, but solutions are different for each party involved.

Pleasant Grove resident Joe Smith is concerned with liability issues on his family's property. He and his father have adorned the borders of their property with about 50 signs that state, "Private property, no ATVs or `off road' vehicles, no dumping, no shooting, no swimming."

By positioning signs on the property, they hope to eliminate a possible lawsuit if someone gets hurt. They have also sent out press releases and letters to the community explaining the intent of the property and have allowed people to come up and ride horses and hike.

"We've done as much as we can," Smith said. He said the rest is up to law enforcement officers to patrol the area and issue citations.

However, Pleasant Grove Police Lt. Cody Cullimore said his department only has jurisdiction in the city limits.

"The problem is catching the idiots," Cullimore said.

"Unless they want to stop, you can't really stop a motorcycle," added Utah County sheriff's deputy Robert Nelson. "Our main concerns, besides the alcohol and drug violations that we find up here during the night, are the same as the forest service because they have asked for some of our assistance in helping them combat some of the off-road vehicle use and destroying the forest."

Another element of confusion is that the land around "Molly's Nipple," about a mile up in the hills behind Pleasant Grove, zigzags between county, city, private and federal lands. There is a firebreak road, also called the aqueduct, that serves as an access for these vehicles.

As more and more motorized vehicles leave this road, which is the only one designated for motorized travel, off-roaders leave scars in the hills. To combat this, the forest service is considering closing the road.

"We've tried to close the area to off-road vehicles except for the aqueduct road, and by leaving this open, people get in here and go off this main road," said Bob R. Eastman of the Uinta National Forest. "What we are trying to do is to get the area to heal over and revegetate. The big problem is the damage to the watershed and also the view."

Reed Adams, a Pleasant Grove resident who belongs to two four-wheel drive clubs, said he came to the Monday meeting to protect the rights of the general public who enjoy the public lands.

"I think the public has a right to use some of the resources that exist around them," he said. "Some of the public lands and some of roads that cut across private property have actually been here for 50 to 100 years and Utah state law basically thinks of them as private right-of-ways. Whether the property owners think that or not, that is the way it is."

He said education would help, as well as pushing up fines.

"If you damage private or public (property) somewhere else, you get to pay for it," he said.

Smith said he wishes it would not get to the point where the firebreak road would be closed. "I feel like it is an important part of our heritage for people to ride their horses and hike," Smith said. "It's one of the few places you can go."

Because this area is kind of hidden away, many people use it for target practice.

Resident Christina Waggoner, who lives on the border of the foothills, said she is concerned about safety involving speeding vehicles and shooting.

"This has just become a safety issue for all the property owners bordering the foothills and for recreational users," she said. "People will shoot over trails in all different directions."

She is not opposed to vehicles in the area but would like them to slow down because it is very dangerous when hiking on the trails. "It's just sad because I think it should be a safe place for all of us."

Both Waggoner and Smith said changing jurisdiction over the land would help law enforcement.

Eastman said all three agencies work well together when ticketing people. He said people are not ticketed too often, however, because no one can catch them.