Joyriders tear up Tupper
Village board erects signs, considers cameras to catch illegal ATVers
TUPPER LAKE — The Tupper Lake village board has been addressing several possible solutions to stop what is being described as widespread illegal all-terrain vehicle usage in the village.
Tupper Lake does not have public trails available for ATV riders; the four-wheelers must be used on personal property or at a club which has a fee to access its trails. But even though it is illegal, riding ATVs is a nightly occurrence throughout the town according to Tupper Lake’s Code Enforcement Officer Peter Edwards.
Edwards clarified that he is not anti-ATV. Owning one himself, he has a membership at a hunting club to use its legal trails.
While a moderate amount of ATV riding is generally accepted, the problem is joyrides that are loud, dangerous and destroy property.
“There are law-abiding ATV riders who are fully insured, they are registered, and sometimes they need to go down the side of the road,” Edwards said. “And then there are the outlaw ones that are unregistered, uninsured … they are out destroying public property, private property. They are trespassing.”
Evidence of the vehicles is seen in public areas such as tire tracks circling the Tupper Lake Train Station, heading onto the Junction Pass Multi-Use Trail and on the sand mounds at the town garage, which can be seen from satellite images on Google Earth.
Private property also sees damage as lawns are used as shortcuts and large properties as trails. A private golf driving range, maintained for years by Tupper Lakers Richard Beauchamp and Frank Bencze, was mowed for the final time last year after ATV riders disregarded demands to stop tearing up the clearing. The range, only known to the few who groomed and used the clearing off Demars Boulevard, now grows thick with weeds and grass as tire tracks drive lines of mud through the trails.
The village board initially wanted to implement a new law regulating ATV usage, but Wade Beltramo, a lawyer for the New York Council of Mayors, noted that one is already on the books; it just needs to be enforced. However, enforcing this law is easier said than done.
The village board, in a meeting on July 19, decided to place signs along commonly traveled areas, telling riders that taking four-wheelers or motorcycles onto private or village property is trespassing. Trespassing can be enforced by police, resulting in a violation or possibly a misdemeanor. These signs do not reflect a new law; rather they are meant to inform and deter possible trespassers from riding on the property.
Village police have had the ability to crack down on joyriders but, for safety reasons, will not usually engage an unlawful ATV rider in a high-speed chase.
Four-wheelers and motorbikes can easily outmaneuver police cars as the larger squad cars do not have the ability to follow ATVs off the roads. The department polices illegal ATV riding when it can but often does not have the equipment nor the luck to catch them in the act.
“My officers will make an attempt to initially stop an ATV or a dirt bike,” Chief of Police Eric Proulx said. “Generally, what happens within the first 20 seconds of trying to stop them is they find a way off the road, into the woods.”
When officers are able to catch an illegal ATV, the rider will usually be given a summons and will receive few to no breaks in the legal process, possibility paying tickets, impound fees and towing fees.
Though the signs warn of the possible legal trouble trespassing could cause for a rider, the owner of a Tupper Lake ATV sales and repair shop believes the signs will not hit home for the core of the trespassers.
“Kids don’t care about a sign,” Adirondack Machines owner Darwyn Benware said.
Benware attributes the destruction and nuisance to riders who lack responsibility. He noted that while he has helmets in stock, he sees the same people riding around with heads unprotected.
Another idea Edwards mentioned in the meeting was to place cameras at the town garage, train station and other problem areas, letting the cameras police illegal vehicle use. Cameras at Flanders Park caught a group of teenagers in 2014 who ripped up grass around the freshly installed Little Loggers playground. Edwards believes the same system could be used to identify ATVs and their owners, issuing restitution bills for the damage they cause.
Though the technological plan is a constant safeguard for these areas, that 24/7 coverage is very expensive. Proulx pointed out that cameras need power and a way to send data back to the police station to be viewed when needed. Cameras are expensive pieces of equipment by themselves as well.
“I don’t expect anything to change too much from the way I’ve done business,” Proulx said. “If somebody encounters a violation with an ATV and they know who it is and come to us, we will take a statement.”
Meanwhile, other village staff will soon put up signs about illegal ATV and motorbike use, and discussions about future solutions are still in the works.