Snowmobiles leave ruts in Lake Township fields
Written by DEBBIE ROGERS Sentinel Staff Writer
Friday, 08 February 2013 11:19
MILLBURY - When the snow flies in Lake Township, the farmers cringe.
Snowmobilers are rampant this winter, brazenly tearing up fields and damaging property, a group of farmers told the Lake Township Trustees at Tuesday's meeting.
"All us farmers are tired of the destruction that's happening out in our fields," said Bob Wasserman.
He passed around glossy photos showing some of his 600 acres torn up by snowmobiles, or all-terrain vehicles in the non-snowy months. In one picture, tracks swerve past "Posted - No Trespassing" signs on Wasserman's property.
The snowmobiles can damage winter wheat, Wasserman said.
"We're talking about our livelihood," said another farmer, Jim Hicks.
Police Chief Mark Hummer said officers are aggressively pursuing the snowmobilers and they will be prosecuted to the full extent of the law.
"We heard the landowners loud and clear and are in agreement," Hummer said.
Last month, the police chief issued a warning that was publicized in the Sentinel-Tribune. Hummer said he has had many complaints from farmers about snowmobiles crossing their fields.
Driving the snowmobiles on private property can be considered criminal trespass, a fourth-degree misdemeanor. If an all-terrain vehicle or snowmobile is involved, operators are subject to twice the normal fine.
Hummer also said the snowmobile could be confiscated, and that there would be no warnings issued to offenders.
Technically, the chief said, snowmobiles are allowed to ride along the berm on a road. But he questioned where the snowmobiles would be heading in this area.
"This isn't northern Michigan where they're going to a trail," Hummer said.
Trustee Richard Welling, who is also a farmer, introduced a motion on Tuesday asking Ohio Sen. Randy Gardner and Ohio Rep. Tim Brown, both R-Bowling Green, for assistance in changing the laws. The vote in favor was unanimous.
When confronted, the farmers said some of the snowmobilers have retaliated. Wasserman said he asked one to stop riding on his property last May. Shortly afterward, tracks were churned over and over into one of his fields and trash, including glass, was dumped in another spot.
One farmer said after he told a snowmobiler to leave his property, the rider returned the next night to circle close to the farmer's home, scaring his family.
"They're thumbing their noses at us. This is ridiculous," said Larry Knudson.
He presented a two-page list of talking points at Tuesday's meeting. They included banning snowmobiles from township roads and getting aggressive with offenders by taking their vehicles and imposing stiff fines and jail time.
Another problem, Wasserman said, is trying to catch the trespassers. When snowmobilers are in the middle of a field, they are difficult to get to, and a snowmobile can reach speeds of 70 to 100 mph.
Hummer pledged to start a task force and ask for assistance from nearby jurisdictions, such as Walbridge, Millbury, Perrysburg Township and Wood and Ottawa counties.
"We're going to think out of the box. We're going to employ different means," Hummer said.
According to the American Council of Snowmobile Associations Web site, there are 146 miles of groomed trails in Ohio. Helmets are required and roads are open to snowmobiles if decided by local authorities only. The same rule applies for riding road shoulders. Road ditches are not open. There is no posted speed limit.
Last Updated on Friday, 08 February 2013 11:39