A ride along the Harrison County Rail Trail could result in a fine, or even jail time for dirt bike and all-terrain vehicle riders.
The Harrison County Sheriff's Office is prepared to start patrolling the trail with a four-wheel-drive truck to keep the noisy and destructive machines out, Sheriff Wayne Godwin said Monday.
"We have an Army four-wheel that was donated to us that is now equipped with a county radio," Godwin said. "Chief Deputy (Gary) Wine is going to tell the shift commanders to patrol out there when they have the manpower."
Four-wheelers, dirt bikes and other motorized vehicles are not allowed on the Rail Trail, Godwin said. Only pedestrians and bicycles are allowed on the seven-mile stretch that winds along the West Fork River.
Deputies will have no set times for patrolling the trail, Godwin said.
"They'll probably find a place so they can sit and watch for ATVs," he said.
"They could be out there at any time."
Patrols will start right away, Godwin said. But police still are doing research into what charges can be brought against violators.
"If they're caught, they can definitely be charged with trespassing," he said. "We're still researching to see exactly what other charges could be brought."
Those charged with first-time trespassing could be fined, he said. They could face arrest for a second offense.
Four-wheelers and dirt bikes have destroyed parts of the Rail Trail, and that causes walkers and bicyclists to stay home rather than use it, said Paul Hamrick, county litter control chairman.
"I'm glad to see this," he said. "I think law enforcement can deter riders from using the trail.
"There's no doubt that they need a place to ride, but I don't think the public Rails to Trails is the place for it."
Inmates from the Pruntytown Correctional Center are working to clean up illegal dumps along the trail this summer, and the county Parks and Recreation Department plans to repair parts of it.
They hope to attract walkers and bicyclers back to the trail, Hamrick said.
Staff writer Paul Darst can be reached at 626-1404.