Tuesday, February 14, 2017 - Updated: 2:43 PM
By Rachel Keller Collins
The City of Hardin and the Marshall County Sheriff’s Dept. recently announced a public forum that will be held Feb. 27 at 6 p.m. at Hardin’s community building, located at 50 High School Street. The purpose of the meeting, according to both Mayor Randal Scott and Sheriff Kevin Byars, is to hear both sides of an issue regarding ATV use in the city and ideally reach a compromise.
Scott said he and the city council members have received a number of complaints regarding four-wheeler and ATV riders—namely property damage and noise complaints. He said the council discussed options in an effort to address the issues but the issues extend beyond the city limits. Ultimately, he said, he and the council felt it was best to get all necessary parties involved and have one big meeting. He said he, the city clerk and the city attorney will be in attendance as well as the county attorney and representatives from the sheriff’s dept.
“We want people there. We want to hear both sides. We want to hear from the people who ride four-wheelers and ATVs but we also want to hear from the property owners,” he said. “My goal is to try to find some sort of common ground with both sides. We don’t want this to be a feud or a fight. We want everybody to discuss the issues and try to resolve whatever the issues are and everybody reach some common ground.”
Regarding specifically the city’s interests, Scott said he and the council are concerned about the use of the railroad beds and city streets.
“When they come through there and into city limits they’re crossing city streets, stirring up dust, throwing rocks and that sort of thing. For the people inside the city limits, most of their complaints are about the noise and the dust and throwing rocks. The city’s concern is from a safety standpoint—four-wheelers and small vehicles shooting across the streets late at night or at dusk or really any time of the day and they have no lights or some lights or not enough lights or whatever and get hit by a car because they weren’t seen. We haven’t had something like that happen yet but we’ve had some near misses,” he said.
Scott said the city doesn’t have any development plans for the railroad beds and therefore would like to leave them open to riders. But there have been a number of concerns regarding adjoining property owners and the adjoining streets. He said the city has had to repair at least three areas where the gravel has been strewn onto the streets by fast-driving and wheel-spinning ATV drivers, which breaks down the blacktop and costs money to repair. He says it’s not so much that the city minds them using that space—but they need to do so “responsibly.”
Scott said the city council members have considered policies along the lines of curfews for weekdays and weekends, addressing the “loud pipes” that are an addition to the vehicles and not a necessity and perhaps enforcing something similar to the ‘no wake zones’ that are enforced in marinas at the lake—some sort of speed regulation that prevents “stirring up a bunch of dust and rocks.”
“I think if they would just be a little more responsible there’s a way we could work this out to where they could still have a place to ride and everybody get along. That would be nice,” he said. “If the city, the county and the property owners and the people that ride the ATVs can come to some kind of conclusion that we can live with and they can live with to let them do this, we want to try to do that.”
Byars said what he’s bringing to the table is an opportunity to educate the public regarding Kentucky’s ATV laws and the stance of his department.
“With the mayor, I’m like him, we’re not wanting to prohibit anybody. If they want a place to ride we want them to have a place to ride and have fun but in the same respect, be respectful of others—that’s the biggest issue right now,” he said. Basically what we’re doing is trying to educate both sides, not only on the land owners and home owners but also the ATV riders as well and explain what our expectations are to keep us from having to do something that we really don’t want to do but will do. You have to take into consideration the homeowners, the landowners, the farmers—maybe these folks don’t understand the types of issues they’re causing economically with our farmers.”
Byars said a lot of people don’t know that for the farmers it’s not just a matter of protecting their crops, although damage to the crops is a significant economic loss, it’s also about protecting the ground. He said even after the crops are harvested, the ground has to be prepared for the next season and when someone comes through and tears that up, it causes the need to redo the work, which also has an economic impact.
Byars said something else that needs to be taken into consideration is that ownership of properties frequently changes and while the previous owner might have allowed access for ATVs, the new owner may not. He said in some cases, it might be the same owner who changes their mind and no longer wants to allow access.
“We’re wanting to bring all of this to the forefront, rationally discuss it amongst everybody and that’s my hope for coming out of this,” he said.
Byars said the dept. had a similar issue with Soldier Creek approximately 10 years ago and through meetings such as the one planned for Hardin, they were able to alleviate most issues. He said it’s not feasible to eliminate all issues because his dept. simply doesn’t have the manpower to do so, so it’s going to take a team effort and cooperation from both sides of the fence to reach and maintain a peaceful agreement and existence.
Byars said aside from advising attendees of the laws that apply, he will be making suggestions in accordance with those laws and as long as everyone follows those suggestions, they should be able to get along just fine.
“We just want everybody to be respectful of everybody else. I would dare say some of these ATV riders wouldn’t like somebody come riding through their yard with a four-wheel drive truck throwing mud up against their house. But when it comes to the land where there’s no houses and stuff they think they can just do whatever they want to and that’s not the case either,” he said. “We’re not wanting to come down there and strong-arm and tell people they can’t do this or can’t do that. The the main objective is to work together to see what they can do to make it a much more pleasant experience for everybody.”