Petersburg’s Parks and Recreation Department is asking for the community’s support in ending dangerous riding on the borough’s trails. Officials fear the vehicles could lead to injuries for riders and hikers.
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Donnie Hayes is the head of Petersburg’s Parks and Recreation department. Since he moved here three years ago, he’s made it a priority to keep an eye on Hungry Point Trail.
“Oh, I love it,” Hayes said. “The community loves it! When I first came here, I was surprised at how many people came into me and said, ‘Now Donnie, the Hungry Point Trail needs a little bit of tender love and care.'”
Hayes has made sure to follow those instructions, even bringing in a twelve-person crew last year for a week to renovate the trail.But keeping up the area’s condition has been difficult. Hayes says that people on motor bikes and ATV’s have started riding through Hungry Point and other trails, kicking up rocks and leaving marks in the ground. Signs are up forbidding the vehicles, but the rides have continued.
That worries Hayes. He’s concerned about the condition of Hungry Point, but he’s more worried about the safety of those on it. To give an idea of just how dangerous the trail can be, Hayes walks to the opening of the trail and points inside.
“So a lot of people have assumed that we put up our ‘No Motorized Vehicles’ signs on the trails, we were more mostly concerned with destruction to the trails themselves,” Hayes said. “Which is part of the reason. But more importantly is if you come down a motorcycle on a small pathway, and you saw just a few minutes ago that we had 30 people here. A motorcycle coming right at them, there’s nowhere else to go, it’s an accident waiting to happen. And so to keep those who are hiking safe, this trail is just not built for motorized vehicles. And that’s the truth of the matter.”
Those accidents aren’t just hypothetical. Hayes mentions a situation that happened at the end of May, where one of his employees saw a motorcyclist on the trail and asked him to leave.
“And within a couple minutes of asking the young man not to ride on the trail, he actually fell over on his motorcycle and broke his ankle,” Hayes said. “And so it was just one of those situations where it was like, ‘Ugh!’ And then my employee had to carry him, put him into his vehicle, help him get into the ER. So he was out of work for the rest of the day to make sure he was taken care of. It’s a problem that is continuing to create more maintenance work for us, but it’s also the safety factor.”
The riders aren’t just damaging the trails, though. Hayes says they’ve damaged Petersburg’s ball fields, too. The Parks and Recreation staff has to get the field ready for games each day. And often, they’ll come out to find deep marks and divots, which can take over an hour to fix. Dave Nauman works for the department, and he says that he’s seen the same few riders, over and over, and continued to warn them about their damage.
“They’ll go on the fields, and they’ll tear the fields up,” Nauman said. “And it takes untold times to drag it and roll it to get that damage off the fields.”
For the department, the situation is a frustrating one. They can warn riders they see on the trails, but they can’t punish them. And while they maybe could patrol the trails to make sure they’re safe, Hayes says that he’s only got a staff of two people. So for now, the department is simply asking the community to be aware of the laws and to not drive on the trails.
“So, really, it’s just a matter of people making the decision on their own, saying, ‘Hey, this is something that we need to do to help the community, to keep our trails safe and protected,'” Hayes said.