Growing up, my sister Carol and I turned just about every corner of our parents’ 98 acres into our own personal playhouse. Teepees in the woods, dams in the creek, forts in the haymows, gymnastics on the stanchions.
One summer in late June when we were still quite little, we discovered one field where the plants were over our heads if we sat down, so we made little rooms and paths connecting still more little rooms.
We had a blast for a day or so.
Then Dad discovered the mysterious crop circles and the dinner table thundered with the question, “Who was playing in the field?”
Thus began my formal education of the hidden costs of lodging in nearly ready-to-harvest wheat.
There is a difference between doing something when you don’t know better and doing something when you should know better.
The picture on page A14 shows damage to a Trumbull County cornfield by ATV riders who should have known better.
They knew that field wasn’t their land; they knew they didn’t have permission to ride there. And they should have known they were destroying a valuable crop. Someone’s paycheck.
The Pickerington, Ohio-based All-Terrain Vehicle Association encourages responsible ATV riders to ride only in authorized areas and stay on designated trails, and to show respect for others and the land by “treading lightly.”
There are legitimate sport ATV riders who drive responsibly, and I’m sure they’re not happy with the slobs in their midst either. In fact, the United Four Wheel Drive Association has created a volunteer trail patrol program to help alert officials to vandalism or illegal activities.
But renegade ATV riders are everywhere.
Every day, across the country, hundreds of ATV drivers trespass on private property, ride off trails in state parks or game lands, and damage farm crops, wildlife food plots, erodible land and fragile wildlife habitat. In one instance, two joy riders in Pennsylvania entered a posted restricted area on their ATVs and disturbed a bald eagle nest.
They’ve marred the Appalachian Trail, destroyed sand dunes and trashed wetlands.
Private property signs are ripped down; cables are ignored, cut or bypassed; fences are torn down.
“There’s no place to ride,” they say.
And that makes trespassing OK?
More than two years ago, Farm and Dairy wrote about another Trumbull County farmer who was attacked by four ATV riders on his property. He was kicked and punched in the face and his leg was severely broken. Many readers wrote letters to the editor, expressing their outrage.
The Ohio Farm Bureau has tried to tackle the issue, but proposals languish in the Statehouse or never make it there at all.
The issue isn’t going away. It just gets pushed from view, hidden like the trails blazed through Tom Callahan’s cornfield.
It’s time to bring the problem to the front burner and find a solution.
(Editor Susan Crowell can be reached at 1-800-837-3419 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.)