These four-wheelers let farmers carry tools to remote fence lines to make repairs and allow hunters to get deep into woods to retrieve their kill and get it quickly to be processed.
The ATVs can be as big as a small car and some have six wheels and can make it easy to bring all the gear needed to have a complete campsite in a remote location. Last, but not least, ATVs can be a lot of fun.
ATV riders love the outdoors and enjoy the freedom of being able to go anywhere that their rugged machine can take them.
An all-wheel drive machine can climb steep grades, can often pull a stuck truck or car out of a deep rut and can take a rider to a remote mountain top or across a wide shallow river. This is where the problems often arise.
The use of ATVs is regulated by laws. State, federal and local laws are in place to protect the riders, protect innocent bystanders, protect private property, protect public land and to protect the environment.
Laws relating to use on public roads and helmet laws are easy to understand.
Laws governing where the ATVs can go are often overlooked or just plainly ignored.
It is illegal to operate an ATV in the national forest except on designated ORV trails and certain roads. It is illegal to operate ATVs on any private property without the express written permission of the land owner and that permission is not transferable to others. It is illegal to operate an ATV in a stream or river or dried stream bed in Georgia.
Please note that there are exceptions for farm vehicles and for an ATV that is only crossing the stream.
Some ATV riders think that if it is public land such as state parks or national forests that ATVs have the right to go anywhere the vehicle will take them.
This is a total misconception. ATVs must stay on designated trails and roads.
When a four-wheeler goes off trail and “starts a new path” that new path does not have the proper preparation that is needed for ATV use. The ground easily becomes rutted, wild plants and even endangered plants can be killed and erosion can easily become a major issue.
One vehicle may not make a big impact, but once riders see where another ATV has gone, more often than not others will follow and the problem gets worse.
Some ATV enthusiasts have found that streams and rivers during low water periods are convenient pathways and sometimes an extremely fun play area. I have personally watched a group of four-wheelers running at high speeds in the vast shallows of the Etowah River.
I watched as rooster-tails of water and gravel went high in the air. Some were “cutting doughnuts” leaving deep gouges in the gravel bottom as others raced around an island and still another actually pulled a wheel stand. I have to admit that they were having fun. That fun was totally illegal and damaging to the resource.
During the past 62 years the river has had its flow governed by the release of water from Allatoona dam & the natural ebb and flow of the river. The river has developed vast shallow gravel and sand bars that are home to aquatic insects, freshwater mussels, crawfish and all the fish that feed on them.
As a result of this one event natural habitats were degraded, deep furrows plowed into the bottom and fish pushed out of their thermal refuges, and even after confronting the operators their response was that they did not care and that the river was public property and and “they have to catch me.”
These people broke the law. They had to trespass on private property to get to the river and the river bottom itself is private property of the land owners who join the river.
Although the law governing the use of ATVs in waterways of Georgia is only two years old, it is still the law. It doesn’t matter how much fun it is, if it damages the resource and is against the law, don’t do it.
CHILI COOK OFF
The 17th annual Trout Unlimited Cook Off is less than a month away.
On Oct. 13, the gates will open at 10:30 a.m. to allow the public in to sample the multitude of various chilies prepared by cooks from across North Georgia.
Cooks can go online and print an entry form or pick up a brochure at various restaurants and businesses across the area. Registration is still only $40.
The next meeting of the Coosa Valley Chapter will be today at 6:30 p.m. at the E.C.O. River Education Center at Ridge Ferry Park.
The main focus of the meeting is working out details on the cook off and recapping the National Meeting of TU that was attended by CVCTU members.
Cook Off entry forms can be picked up at the meeting. Members are urged to attend and the meeting is open to the public.