2010-07-22 / Front Page

Townships Encountering ATV Difficulties

Police remain on the lookout for four-wheeler infractions
By Chanin Rotz-Mountz

Certainly not a new situation here in rural Fulton County, township and county officials are starting to log a number of all-terrain vehicle infractions and complaints ranging from noise to dirt.

Several weeks ago, a husband and wife approached the Fulton County Board of Commissioners regarding an ongoing situation involving neighbors riding along Timber Ridge Road as well as on an adjacent property, causing large amounts of dust and dirt to be stirred up. The duo stated they had previously spoken of the issue and the possible enacting of ordinances with the Board of Supervisors in Thompson Township.

Thompson Township Supervisor Bob Swadley shared with the “News,” since the initial sit-down on the all-terrain vehicle issue, other concerned township residents have stepped forward to protest and request the township refrain from adopting ordinances.

Swadley pointed out the majority of sample ordinances reviewed by the township and currently found on the books in other areas specify the need for an original muffler and noise control. The township Planning Commission and state officials have been consulted on the matter, and talks seem to be continuing between the officials and residents. Brochures outlining existing ATV laws are also being distributed.

“We’ve spoken to the violators about any strange hours of operation,” said Swadley, who noted he remains “hesitant in adopting a bunch of ordinances that would in turn be difficult to enforce.”

“We can’t have an ordinance for everything,” Swadley stated. “I think there are a lot of laws on the books out there already ... . This is an issue that comes down to using common sense and having respect for other people.”

Swadley and his fellow supervisors in Thompson aren’t the only board currently encountering difficulties in what is turning out to be a countywide issue. Officials with the Dublin Township Board of Supervisors have also reported ongoing incidents and were happy to report their disputes between neighbors seem to have been solved amicably and without the need for ordinances.

Dublin Township Chairman Jeff Croft stated a tentative agreement appears to have been reached between two neighbors. The issue at hand revolved around a variety of concerns such as dust, noise and hours of operations and was resolved through refraining from riding during special occasions and wetting down the riding track to help curb dust.

According to Croft, “We want people to come out and reach an amicable agreement without having to put ordinances on the books.”

Croft did note even though the township is attempting to stay away from the ordinance issue in this matter, it is considering enaction in other areas, including the neglect of and cruelty to animals.

“There’s too much of this going on,” he concluded.

Pennsylvania State Police in McConnellsburg are aware of the ongoing situations and remain on the lookout for infractions. The Snowmobile and All-Terrain Vehicle Law of the state Vehicle Code maintains that state residents owning and intending to use their ATVs in Pennsylvania (aside from farm or business use) must possess a title and registration through the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources. General registration allows the machine to be operated off the owner’s or operator’s private property, while a limited registration is utilized exclusively on the property of the owner. There is no fee for limited registration, and the registration does not expire.

Rules of operation through the Vehicle Code are quite simple and maintain that ATVs may be operated:

On state-owned property on clearly marked and previously designated ATV trails;

On highways and streets when necessary to cross a bridge or culvert;

On highways and streets during periods of emergency when so declared by a government agency having jurisdiction; and

On highways and streets for special ATV events.

In addition, only individuals age 16 and older are able by law to operate a fourwheeler. Individuals between the ages of 8 and 15 may only drive an ATV on the property of their parent or guardian after having taken an ATV safety course and subsequently receiving their training certificate. Helmets are also mandated by law.

State police are authorized to enforce the Snowmobile/ ATV Law with jurisdiction also applying to private land.

Failure to register an ATV or have liability insurance can result in fines of up to $300. Other violations are punishable by fines ranging from $50 to $200 for first offenses and second offenses can result in fines of $100 to $300.

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