Riding all-terrain vehicles on city property officially became illegal this month. At a Sept. 8 meeting, the Hartford City Council amended the city's regulations, making riding four-wheeled ATVs on city property punishable by fines of $99.
Speaking with the Advocate, Hartford Director of Parks and Public Works Clarence Corbin said the resolution didn't come a moment too soon.
"They do tremendous damage to the city's fields and other areas," Corbin said. The vehicles, designed to find traction in mud, sand and rocky areas, pull up grass and sand on baseball diamonds.
In an August 2007 Advocate story about ATVs in the city, Mike Mount, spokesman for ATV Safety Institute, a motor vehicle industry group, said that the vehicles had become increasingly popular nationwide due to the appearance of cheap and Chinese manufactured ATVs that lack the safety features of domestically produced ones. Also, US Consumer Products Safety Commission spokesperson Scott Wolfson noted that "all-terrain vehicle" is a misnomer; ATVs can't handle sidewalks or roads, as they "can't make proper and safe turns on a paved surface."
Corbin said the ATVs are most prevalent in Pope and Colt parks. Along with ripping up the park grounds, the vehicles also create other indirect negative consequences.
"It's also a quality of life issue," Corbin said. "The vehicles are very disruptive and they're also very loud. So, you're enjoying the serenity of the park and all of a sudden you have this aggressive vehicle driving wherever it wishes without any controls."
Enforcement of the new regulation, unfortunately, may prove difficult. Just because ATVs are illegal doesn't mean they're any easier to catch up to.
"Chasing someone on a vehicle like that is very difficult," Corbin said. "And it can be dangerous because the riders are trying to escape and can create an accident."
Corbin said the new regulation was a step in the right direction.
"With the new ordinance, there's a violation of the law, and the police can act more strongly," Corbin said.¦