Off-road motorcycles to aid North Huntingdon police in park enforcement
North Huntingdon officials hope police on off-road motorcycles will keep all-terrain-vehicle and dirt-bike riders out of the township's parks.
Officials plan to trade in a 2010 Harley Davidson Road King motorcycle, which has 13,000 miles, at Mosites Motor Sports in North Huntingdon for two new Honda Enduro motorcycles, according to police Chief Andrew Lisiecki.
The two Enduro motorcycles come with a $9,800 price tag. Lisiecki said trading in the Harley Davidson would cover the cost of the Enduro motorcycles.
“We have a lot of people riding their ATVs through our parks and across township property, which is prohibited,” Lisiecki said.
Police cannot pursue ATV riders in the parks because their police cars and motorcycles aren't properly equipped to go off the road, Lisiecki said.
The Enduro motorcycles come with a license plates, which make them legal to drive on and off the road, Lisiecki said.
Police plan to send two undercover officers on patrols in the parks on the Enduro motorcycles in the hope of catching and citing anyone riding ATVs through the park.
Currently, the township bans all ATVs in its parks because they create ruts on trails and destroy grass and other plants, which creates safety hazards, Lisiecki said.
Police frequently receive reports of ATVs in the parks, especially Braddock's Trail Park, off of Turner Valley Road. On April 16, an officer cited three youths, all under the age of 16, for riding dirt bikes through the heavily wooded area of Braddock's Trail Park, Lisiecki said.
Each park features several signs posted to prohibit any motorized vehicles, he said.
“There is a lot of damage being done in the parks, and it's pretty well posted that it is prohibited in the parks, but people just ignore it,” Lisiecki said. “The ruts being dug into the walking trails are anywhere from 6 to 8 inches deep, and it's really become a safety hazard.”
Dan Miller, director of parks and recreation, said he thinks the number of ATVs in the parks will decline once riders realize the police are patrolling.
“Word of mouth, media reports, our Nixle messaging system and messages from our staff will keep them out of the parks,” Miller said. “They'll know they will get in trouble if they're out there.”
Miller said parks officials repair the trails whenever hikers call in to complain about the ruts. Often, Miller said, parks employees have to walk the trails with shovels and other supplies to find the damage.
“The trails are not big enough for us to take a vehicle to repair, making it difficult to get access,” Miller said. “It takes a lot of time and labor to repair the trails by hand.”
Manager John Shepherd said citations range from up to $100 for a first violation up to $1,000 for a third violation.
“I don't think ATV riders in our parks will ever go away,” Shepherd said. “But this could slow them down.”
Commissioner Tony Martino said he is skeptical about the effectiveness of off-road police patrols.
“They're still going to be out there, riding around in the parks, whether the police have bikes or not,” Martino said.
The Enduro motorcycles also could be used to help officers search for lost people in wooded areas, Lisiecki said.
Lisiecki said he hopes to get the Enduro motorcycles in service this summer, after officers receive specialized off-road training in May.
“Other than spending hours down at the parks on a stakeout, we don't know when they're going to be out riding or not,” Lisiecki said. “This is a way to try to actively cite them in the park.”
Miller said he hopes the police's off-road patrols will discourage riders from using the trails.
“I don't know that we'll ever be able to rid ourselves of these problems,” Miller said. “But if we can deter them, it will create less damages and allow the nature trails to return to their natural state and help the flowers bloom along the trails.”
Brad Pedersen is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-856-7400, ext. 8626, or firstname.lastname@example.org.