ATV, hunting ban moves forward in Falmouth; fines considered for negligent dog owners

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FALMOUTH — Ordinance changes that would ban ATVs on town land, restrict hunting in some areas and require dog owners to clean up after their animals passed a first reading Monday.

The amendment would officially ban dirt bikes, ATVs and other motorized off-road vehicles on town-owned land, including trails, parks and recreation areas.

“We have some areas that are severely torn up,” the town’s open space ombudsman, Bob Shafto, said during Monday’s Town Council meeting.

Shafto said he is not aware of any ATV clubs in the area, but that if one were to step up and volunteer to maintain the trails, that might change the way the town deals with this issue.

“But right now, it’s individuals, often teenagers, and the damage they’re causing is often measurable,” he said.

Tami Kane of the statewide organization ATV Maine said she was not aware of the proposed ordinance changes in Falmouth and that, without a local club, ATV riders should using sanctioned trails.

There are clubs in Gray-New Gloucester and in Gorham-Standish, where members said they were not aware of any official trails in Falmouth. Gray-New Gloucester club members could not be reached for comment.

State law requires ATV riders to get written permission from landowners before traversing private property.

“As far as I know, ATVs have never been allowed (on town property),” Town Manager Nathan Poore said. “I’m pretty sure (the ordinance amendment) affirms the rules.”

Councilor Tony Payne said he would like to see more engagement with ATV riders before the change is implemented.

“I would ask that the ATV community come and explain what their usage, the impact and the stewardship of the trails are,” he said.

In addition to banning ATVs, the change would ban hunting at Community, Pine Grove, Walton and Presumpscot Falls parks, and Pleasant Hill Preserve. Only bow hunting would be allowed in Town Forest.

Additionally, the amendment would institute a fee for dog owners who do not clean up after their pets on town property. Negligent owners would be fined $50 for the first offense, $100 for the second offense and $250 for the third.

Dogs must also be on a leash from April 1 to Sept. 30 in some conservation areas to protect wildlife.

The changes will go to a public hearing scheduled for Sept. 12 at 7 p.m., where the public is invited to comment.

Emily Parkhurst can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 125 or eparkhurst@theforecaster.net. Follow her on Twitter: @emilyparkhurst.

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