Saturday, June 26, 2010

Friends of Hawksnest encourage crackdown on ORVs

On June 25, an ORV and a motorbike driven by two kids were spotted on Round Cove Rd and Spruce Rd.  Harwich Police were called, but arrived a few minutes too late to catch the kids.  They returned again the following evening, and this time, one of them drove down the gully to the beach .

That evening, Friends of Hawksnest tracked the ORV to the house it came from.  We used enlarged photos of the tires (taken when they were seen in Hawksnest), matched the photos to tracks, and then followed the tracks to their house. 

The next day, Harwich Police visited the boys, and found the ORVs in the garage.  They won't be returning to Hawksnest again.  Then we talked to one of the boys and his father, and had a frank exchange of views.  Because of the honest discussion, we have removed the photo of the two boys riding their ORVs in Hawksnest.

While neighbors say ORV abuse at Hawksnest has declined, there are still signs of recent ORV use on some trails.  ORVs began the erosion of the large gully by the beach that the State is hoping to restore.  The contract for fixing erosion at both parking lots is going to cost several hundred thousand dollars--so damage caused by ORVs, when allowed to fester, can cost serious bucks.

Any off-road vehicles (ORVs) at Hawknest are illegal.  "ORV use is permitted only on designated ORV trails within the forest management. Designated ORV trails will be marked with trailhead signage and/or orange or yellow trail blazes. All other state parks, reservations and forests are closed to ORV use at all times."  Source

On exploring further, we found that Hawksnest is surrounded by an extensive network of ORV trails.  There is one running east along the south side of the Mid Cape Highway.  Riders have cut holes in the fence bordering Rte 6, allowing them to access Hawksnest, gravel pits, and other areas.  There are access points to this network from the Queen Ann Rd, Rte 137, and Rte 39.  These trails connect with two large sand pits in the area.

Since the Town of Harwich gets about $130,000 a year in payments from the State because of Hawksnest, we think the Town should be involved in helping stop illegal behavior there.

What you can do to help
  • If you visit Hawksnest, carry your cell phone and camera.  Get a photo of the rider, then make a call to the Harwich Police508-430-7541 (then dial 0 to get a dispatcher).
  • Help us put up NO ORV signs.
  • Sign our petition.
  • The will soon be a meeting of Harwich officials to decide how to respond to this and similar issues.   Attend the meeting.  We'll publish details when we find out more.
  • Write a letter to the editor, your Selectman or Chief William Mason wmason@town.harwich.ma.us .
Neighbors and Friends of Hawksnest can make a difference, if we work consistently and together.

Our goals

Harwich Police, State Police, Environmenal Police, and Nickerson State Park rangers can all respond.  For years, each enforcement group has been saying the other agency is responsible.  Now Harwich Police have accepted some responsibility for responding to complaints.  But Sgt. Kevin Considine explains they are stretched very thin--and that we may not be satisfied with their response times.

What we are asking for is better coordination.  Can these various agencies divide up the times?  Can Harwich respond on weekends, for example, and Nickerson staff on weekdays?  If one agency cannot respond, will they call another to fill the gap?  Can Friends make official patrols less necessary by mounting their own patrols?   All involved need to talk.

It's DCR official policy to "cooperate with law enforcement agencies" in combating ORV abuse.

Finally, Friends of Hawksnest needs to know if an agency has responded.  This is not to "harrass" the Harwich police or any other responder--it's simply to keep our people motivated, and to help us know how we can best be of help.  There's nothing more demoralizing to a helpful citizen than making a call, then never knowing if that call made a difference, or if anyone responded.

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