Cumberland Land Trust addressing vandalism at properties

Cumberland Land Trust addressing vandalism at properties

Jerry Frechette, Cumberland Land Trust board member, inspects damage to a stone wall on the Blackall Family Preserve, caused by an ATV rider.
Group reminding residents that ATVs are not allowed

CUMBERLAND – Members of the Cumberland Land Trust are reminding residents to use their trails for passive recreation only after they’ve discovered damage at multiple properties caused by riders of all-terrain vehicles.

“We work so hard to get the trails in shape. To have the damage that was done is very upsetting,” Randy Tuomisto, president of the Cumberland Land Trust, told The Breeze.

Damage has been reported this year at both the Blackall Family Preserve, off Old West Wrentham Road, as well as at Mercy Woods Preserve, with access off Sumner Brown Road.

“We’re trying to work with the town one site at a time,” he said, adding that the Land Trust is monitoring its properties very closely for this type of activity. Per town rules, trails are restricted to foot traffic only. Earlier this month, two hikers along the yellow trail at the Blackall Preserve reported extensive damage, assumed to be from an ATV driver who unlawfully broke through historic stone walls, according to Tuomisto, which is “outright a form of vandalism.”

When three Land Trust board members visited the site the next day they saw ATV trails in the area, as well as branches down and small trees that were broken.

“We’re under the assumption based on the amount of damage and additional trails that look like they were being forged on the property that this is not a one-time event, which would destroy what we’ve worked so hard to preserve,” he said.

They followed the ATV tracks to the back door of an abutter’s property, Tuomisto said. Since the town owns the property but the Land Trust manages it, he said the Land Trust made a formal complaint with the town, which then filed a complaint with the Police Department.

On Monday, Tuomisto shared a bit of good news. Police visited the property owner last Friday who was apologetic and spent this past weekend working to repair sections of the wall that had been breached.

There has also been ATV damage on the Mercy Woods trail system, including approximately 10 trail markers that were ripped down. The outer blue “Ridge” trail aligning with the town’s property boundary that adjoins the Pawtucket Water Supply Board parcels to the south and east, also impacting a short segment of the historic Warner Trail, and a connecting red “Fisk” trail were the target of the most recent malicious acts, according to a post on the group’s Facebook page.

Land Trust members said, “To the individual, or individuals, that are conducting these malicious acts, our message is clear. Stop it now.”

Tuomisto said he’s 100 percent confident it was ATV riders who ripped down the signs since it only occurred where there were tracks.

“ATV users do not like to share trails with hikers,” he said. “They don’t like to be slowed down by hikers.” The only deterrent to ATV usage, he said, is more hikers on the trails.

Tuomisto said Land Trust members replaced all the signs at their expense and hope they’ll remain up. If not, he said that will be the next area they will address and try to identify who’s causing the damage.

These trail markers protect hikers by signifying a safe path to walk and preventing them from getting lost, the Land Trust said.

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Land Trust members have also placed “no ATV” signs at entry points to the trails “to make sure the message is clear,” Tuomisto said, adding that they would like to see any damage to the area, including stone walls and forest floor, be repaired.

The issue with ATV riders using trails meant only for passive recreation is not unique, Tuomisto said. The town deals with the same issues at the Monastery and other properties, he noted, adding that any use of ATVs needs to have owners’ permission, whether it’s from the town or a private landowner.

Tuomisto said he’s not sure what the long-term solution might be. Unlike other states, such as Vermont and Maine, which have established ATV trail systems, Rhode Island doesn’t have an expanse of property for riders.

The problem with ATVs is they do nothing but tear up the trails, sometimes to the point that they’re un-hikeable, he said, and they want visitors to the Land Trust properties to be able to enjoy the hikes and have trails in the best possible conditions.

During the pandemic the trails are being used by a lot of residents on a daily basis, Tuomisto said. “We’re very happy that we’re able to provide this resource to residents.”

If anyone is out hiking and observes ATV damage to the properties and/or signs, Tuomisto said they can notify the Land Trust via their Facebook page or website. If it’s safe to do so, they could take pictures, he added.

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Thank you to the Cumberland Land Trust for all you are doing. My family has been walking those trails, and have enjoyed every moment of it. During the pandemic, hiking has been the only source of "getting out" that we had. Just know that many of us are thankful for all of your hard work.

While i applaud the work of the land trust to make sure the land is not developed. But the lack of respect to the original crowd that used these areas. before the nice walking trails were created they were riding trails for years with no harm to anyone. Now those areas were taken away with no impute or care from the original group of users. Instead of taking away all areas that atvs can go, provide some. we are all tax payers too! Bring on the hate because i know the new users and maintainers are not going to like what they just read.

ATV's ruin all the nice trails in town.

Like so many situations in life, the lack of good behavior by a few, tarnishes those who obey the rules. ATVs coming from the woods across my lawn or speeding down my very narrow road almost colliding with my car is totally unacceptable. Should you have a place to ride? Yes, but until such time that is achieved, you need to follow the rules and not destroy the trails.

FACT! ATV riding is not and has not been legal in RI except on your own property or on another's property if permission is given by the property owner.