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North Hempstead considers banning ATVs on town property

An ATV vehicle is seen being driven near

An ATV vehicle is seen being driven near the North Hempstead Aerodrome in Port Washington on Sunday, Apr. 2, 2017. The town of North Hempstead is banning the use of all-terrain vehicles on town property, including parks, driveways and parking lots. Credit: Steven Sunshine

North Hempstead’s Town Council is proposing a ban on all-terrain vehicles in response to residents’ concerns and to protect park grasslands.

Supervisor Judi Bosworth said the proposal stems from comments she and other town officials heard from residents earlier this year. In January, Bosworth sought input on how to revamp North Hempstead Beach Park and was told by residents that ATV riders are destroying the park’s grasslands.

“While there’s a place for ATVs, we believe that town property is not one of those places,” Bosworth said last week. “We thought this was a good time to enact legislation.”

The proposed ban includes fines and jail time. First-time offenders are subject to a $250 fine, and a second offense carries a $500 penalty. Those with three or more offenses in a five-year period would be fined $1,000. Offenders also could face 15 days in jail, and there are penalties for children caught riding.

The council will hold a public hearing on Tuesday on the ban and could vote then to enact it.

David Jakim, a Port Washington resident who teaches environmental literacy at Queens College, said ATV riders are also damaging parts of Hempstead Harbor Nature Sanctuary.

“They destroy all the vegetation they ride over,” Jakim said of ATV tires. “And they compact the soil so that vegetation cannot come back very readily; it takes more time.”

The loss of vegetation resulting from the use of all-terrain vehicles destroys habitat for wildlife, Jakim said, adding that “it affects the overall biodiversity.”

Some riders oppose the ban and lament additional restrictions on an activity they enjoy.

Steve Mack, a Rockville Centre resident and vice president of Long Island Off Road, a Lake Grove-based group for enthusiasts that has 60 to 70 members, owns six ATVs that he keeps on private property in Hancock, in upstate Delaware County.

“I’m an off-road enthusiast,” Mack said. “But personally, I feel for anyone who likes to ride their ATV on Long Island. I have to drive three hours north to enjoy the sport I and my family love.”

Mack said that he and his organization will abide by any ATV riding laws, but that they’re concerned about how few designated trails New York State has for off-road activities.

“Overall, we don’t like laws that ban our off-roading recreational use,” Mack said. “But on Long Island, we understand we’re very thickly populated and not everyone is a fan of the noise and the dust that arises, and we need to respect that.”

If it approves a ban, North Hempstead would join neighboring municipalities, such as Oyster Bay, with similar laws. Nassau and Suffolk counties have bans prohibiting ATVs on county property. Nassau’s law allows authorities to confiscate ATVs from those caught riding.

North Hempstead’s proposal would apply to town-owned property, such as parks, driveways and parking lots, but not to a resident’s private property.

The proposal is a good start, but it still needs one tweak, said councilwoman Dina De Giorgio, one of the council’s most outspoken members on the issue.

“It’s missing the penalty of impoundment,” De Giorgio said. “I have no appetite for voting on this law without it having the impoundment provision."

Clarification: A previous version of this story mischaracterized David Jakim’s comments about one of the effects of ATV tires.

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