May 5, 2004 - Milford Daily News
MILFORD -- Town officials began plotting their attack yesterday on illegal dirt bike riders off Cedar Street and Interstate 495, an effort aimed at reducing noise, trespassing and parking on private property.
A new task force formed to combat the long-running problem held its first meeting yesterday morning in Town Hall, with members deciding to seek written notice from property owners who object to motorized recreation vehicles on their land. The group meets again in three weeks.
After five years of all-terrain vehicles and dirt bikes riding just 100 feet behind his house, Cedar Street resident Joseph Donegan left the meeting hopeful, but well aware of the challenges ahead. "I think it's going to be a really long process," Donegan said after the meeting. "I don't think it's going to be solved overnight. I think it's really up to the police, that they're going to have to enforce this."
Town Administrator Louis Celozzi suggested the Board of Selectmen convene the task force amid growing complaints about motorized vehicles on private property near Holliston and Hopkinton, an area known as "Little Vietnam." The task force includes town officials, state environmental police and major property owners in the area, such as Stoneridge Development, New England Power Co., Milford Water Co. and the New England Mountain Bike Association.
Locating the bike enthusiasts is a challenge for police because of the vast network of trails and because riders often knock over the plastic and metal no trespassing signs property owners post. A major spot where bikers are illegally parking cars is the 495 Commerce Park parking lot on weekends, owner Gary S. Rothkopf said at yesterday's meeting.
Town Counsel Gerald Moody said the town has three basic tools to use in keeping dirt bikes away. One is the 1990 town bylaw that bans motorized vehicles from using town property and public utility areas, Moody said. The other two are state laws against general trespassing and trespassing with motor vehicles.
Police Chief Thomas O'Loughlin said property owners like Rothkopf can deter bikers establishing a parking permit system and having cars without permits towed. "When you're paying $100 a day, it grows very old," O'Loughlin said.
O'Loughlin plans to start working with state environmental police on potential surveillance efforts, but Environmental Police Lt. John Pajak said his agency is already aware of Milford's problems. "We have police here just about every weekend," Pajak said. "We have an officer assigned to the area. He is literally turning in citations by the reams."
Pajak suggested Milford send out the forms for property owners to sign explicitly stating their opposition to the ATVs and dirt bikes. These should be kept on file with the Police Department and updated annually, he said. The town should also consider placing public notices in the sports sections of newspapers to alert riders they will be trespassing. That would keep about half the riders away, Pajak said, though many of the riders his agency picks up will continue to come. "They don't pay attention to any of the rest of the laws so they're not going to pay attention to these," Pajak said.
Philip Keyes, of the New England Mountain Bike Association, said mountain bike and ATV Web sites are attracting many bikers to the area and suggested the town alert the sites people are not welcome. "You get it to one and it's going to flash all over the place," Keyes said.
Reno Deluzio, chairman of the Upper Charles Trail Committee, said his group hopes to see work start in the area on its bike trail next summer. That should give bicyclists a legitimate place to ride and help police locate dirt bike and mountain bike riders using nearby private land. "I think as people use it, they'll be able to report information on a more timely basis," Deluzio said.
Keyes said the New England Mountain Bike Association, which bought its 47-acre parcel last fall, is looking for the trail to reduce its members'parking problems. The group encourages members to access association property through town conservation land in Milford and Holliston, but Keyes said some people may be parking on private property like the 495 Commerce Park. "Once the rail trail comes through there, that will provide avenues, there will be parking associated with the rail trail," Keyes said.