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East County Wednesday, Sep. 30, 2009 11 years ago

Illegal ATVs fuel Ranch concern

by: Jen Blanco Sports Editor

LAKEWOOD RANCH — Jurisdictional boundaries are making it difficult for authorities to address the illegal use of ATVs and dirt bikes in Lakewood Ranch.

A resident in Greenbrook Rivers reported a red ATV carrying two and four teenagers and several dirt bikes speeding through the neighborhood and along the cement and shell pathways behind her home several times a day since July.

The resident, who wished to remain anonymous for fear of retaliation, reported the incidents to the Community Development District 4 Board of Supervisors last month. The resident said the vehicles caused damage to private property and posed a threat to the safety and security of the residents whose backyards abut the path.

“There are a lot of people here that can get hurt,” the resident said. “As a parent I would really rather speak to the parents before calling the cops.

“I don’t want to cause trouble,” the resident said. “I pick and choose my battles, but now I’m just trying to look out for the neighborhood because I want it to be safe.”

This particular use of those vehicles is illegal. Unlike golf carts, ATVs and dirt bikes are allowed on roadways as long as they are registered with a Florida tag and driven by a licensed driver.

“Once you put a Florida plate on it, then it can be driven anywhere a licensed automobile can go,” said Sgt. Mike Kenyan of the Traffic Enforcement Division of the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office.

However, the path in question, which runs from Lorraine Road to Greenbrook Adventure Park, sits on private property owned by Schroeder-Manatee Ranch, making it illegal for anyone to ride an ATV or a dirt bike on it. And because it is private property, the sheriff’s office ultimately does not have jurisdiction to be able to patrol the area actively, Kenyan said.

“We don’t come back here and patrol,” he said.

Instead, it’s up to the Greenbrook Homeowner’s Association to make residents aware of the situation and take the necessary steps, such as posting ‘No Trespassing’ signs or putting up gates or fences at the path’s entrances, Kenyan said.

“We either have to catch the kid or know who the kids are to be able to go and enforce it,” CDD 4 Chairman Michael Griffin said.

Greenbrook has had issues with ATVs and dirt bikes in years past but has been unsuccessful in controlling the issue.

“ATVs and dirt bikes are an issue, and we recognize them as an issue, but trying to police them is an entirely different story,” Greenbrook Homeowner’s Association board member Joe Sidiski said.

Sidiski noted there is at least one sign posted on one of the trails by Adventure Park, prohibiting the use of motorized vehicles. However, because lawn maintenance crews and other equipment must be able to move through the entrances on a regular basis, Sidiski said any type of gate or fence is not an option.

“The entrances to the paths are all over the place,” he said. “If you put up any kind of barrier, I don’t know how that would work. Anything a lawn mower can get through, an ATV can get through. If someone is determined enough to ride these areas with an ATV (knowing it’s illegal), you’re not going to stop them by putting up a couple of barriers.”

If signs are in place, and a resident witnesses the incident and is able to detain the perpetrator and call the sheriff’s office, then deputies could issue a trespass warning or other citations.

“Both the homeowner and the perpetrator have to be present, otherwise they can’t be cited because it’s private property,” Kenyan said. “It’s got to be posted.”

Contact Jen Blanco at [email protected].

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