ATVers campaign for somewhere to ride

| 21 Feb 2012 | 10:47

    VERNON-Vernon all terrain vehicle (ATV) rider James Cook has had to deal with the consequences of irresponsible riding. A maintenance worker for the township Board of Education, he once had to repair damage to school property caused by someone riding illegally. What he objects to, however, is being labeled "nuts" for engaging in an activity he has been participating in since he was 11 years old. After several newspaper articles appeared quoting township officials who wondered why anyone would ride an ATV, Cook decided to reach out to other ATV enthusiasts to attempt to educate others in the township about the activity. Cook hung flyers around town to encourage other riders to attend the town council meeting June 28, but that meeting was cancelled and rescheduled for July 8. In New Jersey, it is legal to ride an ATV on one's own private property, Cook said, but illegal just about everywhere else. As a result, many ride illegally on public or private land. In addition, a few parks in New York and Pennsylvania allow riding. Some, like one in Newburgh, N.Y., charge by the day. In Pennsylvania, some state land is open to ATV riders. Barbara Cook, who like her husband is an enthusiastic rider, pointed out that there are advantages in making land accessible to ATV riders, such as revenues from gas for the machines, food and fees. James has three points he wants to bring up to the township. First, he would like the township to understand that the responsible ATV riders are not out to break the law. Second, he wants to try to get riders involved in forging an agreement with the town on a place where they can take their machines, he said. Third, he wants to assure the town that riders are willing to pay a fee. Pointing to the couple's gleaming blue machines and his pickup truck used to transport them, Cook pointed out that after spending $12,000 for the ATVs, plus extra money for safety equipment and a trailer or truck to cart them around, to pay a yearly or daily fee "would be nothing." Cook hastened to point out that he is not involved with the ATV riders who trespass on the property on Route 517 across from Storms Estates. The current ordinance governing "motorized sport bikes" dates from December of 1984. After the attention garnered by the articles and letters to the editor in local papers, the township clerk's office has a folder full of copies of the law ready to be made available to members of the public. The town council, in speaking of the ATV issue at past meetings, agreed to investigate whether the ordinance should be amended and to entertain suggestions as to a policy of enforcement. "I'm not against legal transportation, not against legal riding on private property," said Lou Champy, a resident of Vernon. The ordinance states specifically that it is illegal to operate an ATV on private roadways without the express written permission of the owner, or to operate it near a public roadway that would cause other motorists to have to take "evasive or irregular action." The ordinance also prohibits motorized sports bikes that have not been or cannot be registered with the New Jersey Department of Motor Vehicles from operating on public streets or highways. The NJ DMV currently registers ATVs for a fee of $17. Registration expires yearly on September 30, according to the DMV Web site, http://