Wednesday, September 11, 2013

The golden age of off-roading in Atlanta parks may soon be over

Posted By on Wed, Sep 11, 2013 at 4:24 PM

This four wheeler may or may not be cruising through Perkerson Park
The cherished days of long freewheelin' cruises on dirt bikes, all-terrain vehicles, and motorcycles through Atlanta's grassy public knolls and lush greenspaces could come to an end.

In an effort to keep parkgoers safe and preserve public property, Atlanta City Council is mulling over a proposal to ban off-road vehicles in Atlanta's parks, trails, and greenspaces - except for on roads designated for their use.

Department of Parks, Recreation and Cultural Affairs Commissioner George Dusenbury tells CL the measure was proposed now that more off-road vehicles have descended upon the city's parks in recent years. No specific incident prompted the legislation, which is "addressing the concern as it comes to [the department's] attention."

"[Off-road vehicles are] a "huge safety concern," he says. "They're just trouble anytime you have a populated space."

Dusenbury says ATVs have been spotted in Tanyard Park, Candler Park, Perkerson Park, and along the Atlanta Beltline's southwest segment between Adair Park and Washington Park. These outdoor enthusiasts have cost the city thousands of dollars by doing donuts with their four wheelers in public parks, he says.

"Young folks are on these ATVs, they're flying all over the streets," Atlanta City Councilwoman Joyce Sheperd says. "Kids are getting hurt on them, flying off the backs of them."

Over the past year, Sheperd says some residents in her district - which includes Capitol View, Capitol View Manor, and Sylvan Hills - have raised concerns regarding noise pollution, public safety, and destruction the vehicles have caused.

"Most of them are young folks, there's no [minimum age requirements]," she says. "You see teenagers with their girlfriends on the back of them with no helmets. Kids are showcasing and destroying the grass in the parks."

Park rules have long prohibited vehicles operating in greenspaces and on trails, but they've never specifically mentioned off-road vehicles. If the measure passes, city officials hope increased signage and awareness might prevent thrill seekers from continuing to endanger the public or tear up fields. It will also make it easier for the APD to step in if the dirt-bike riders fail to follow the law.

"We've had some challenges with enforcement," he says. "This makes it easier to let APD make that happen."

Earlier this week, Council's community development and human resources Committee unanimously voted in favor the ordinance. It's expected to head in front of Council on Monday for a final vote.

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