The reservoir's historic structures & ecosystems are an opportunity to create a unique environmental education center for our children & their future.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

ATVs still a problem

Last night I was walking through Lower Highland Park, towards the stairs that lead to the upper park. It was approximately 6:15PM. An ATV was speeding along the walking path, traveling from east to west. The vehicle owner was driving well over 60MPH and I had to run to get out of his way. Once in Upper Highland Park, I met Charles Monaco and we walked across Vermont Place and up the stairs to the running path that borders the reservoir. From the top of the stairs we noticed 4 ATVs riding in Upper Highland Park, near the parking lot. Charles called the local precinct as we watched the 4 vehicles doing wheelies and riding along Vermont Place.

Approximately 45 minutes later, we had circled the running path and were approaching the stairway next to Jackie Robinson Parkway that leads from Vermont Place onto the running path. Another ATV was driving up the stairs and onto the path, which had been busy with joggers and cyclists. When we arrived at the main stairway (across from the Upper Highland Park parking lot), two more ATVs were driving along Vermont Place, rode up the slope adjacent to the stairway and onto the running path. Charles stopped them, introduced himself and explained the issue with the ATV and motorcycles. They said that they understood and were just "cutting through". As they drove off, I turned towards the parking lot and noticed that an NYPD van had been parked in the lot the entire time. I took a photograph of the van as it was backing up to leave the park. I wasn't close enough to get the license plate of the officers on duty, but the local precinct's commanders should have no problem finding out who was on duty.

I stopped to speak with two men who were jogging on the path. It was beginning to get dark and they asked me if I was taking photographs. We got talking and I asked if the ATV problem had gotten any better. They laughed and said that last weekend there were so many of them, plus motorcycles, on the running path that they had to leave. I was surprised because I said that I had been around in the mornings and noon, but hadn't seen any. One man said that he walks through the area on his way home from work everyday. After 6PM, he told me, it is as bad as it's ever been. Should I assume that the late day shifts at the local precincts haven't been told to address the issue? Also, since the department of park's "Parks Enforcement Patrols" aren't on duty after 5PM, their stepped up patrols at Highland Park do nothing to stop the afternoon ATV owners.

I walked back to the area of woods that I described last week as recently having all its underbrush, inexplicably removed. Apparently, this area is now the "cutting through" path for the local ATVs owners. Was this an intentional arrangement or just coincidental? Removing all the shrubs, vines, grass and other plants of the understory on a steep hillside, invasive or not, only creates a terrible erosion problem. Throwing down wood chips and allowing ATVs to drive along that path will just accelerate that process.

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