HOPKINTON — Signs pulled out, a picnic table broken and muddy ruts in the trail from dirt bikes are among the challenges Hopkinton Land Trust volunteers are facing as they try to improve and maintain the hiking trails on their properties.
A picnic table at the Grills Wildlife Sanctuary was recently found smashed, and there have been several incidents lately at the the Pelloni Preserve, off Cedar Knoll Drive.
The trails on the Pelloni property are still under construction, with approximately 2 miles completed so far. Harvey Buford, land trust member and chairman of the Hopkinton Conservation Commission, who had information signs with maps made for the preserve, said seven of the nine signs had been yanked out of the ground. The signs were installed as part of an Eagle Scout project by Josh Benros of Richmond Troop 1, and all but two of them have since been replaced.
“They had installed all the posts and we were waiting for the polycarbonate covers to be cut so they could go back and put them in,” Buford said. “Some of them they put back into the ground because they had come out clean.”
Land trust Chairwoman Marilyn Grant said the latest damage was, unfortunately, a common occurrence.
“The most recent is part of a long string at Pelloni Preserve, and despite several warnings, these things continue,” she said. “It’s just disturbing that there’s a lack of respect for the land trust property.”
Amy Mocarsky and her husband volunteer as trail stewards at the preserve and have often encountered dirt bikers on the trails. Dirt bikes and four-wheelers create deep ruts on the trail surface and increase erosion.
“It has been ongoing,” Mocarsky said of the trail damage. “There’s constant activity back there. There’s always tracks … It isn’t just one group of people."
Buford said he hoped that once the trails were completed on the Pelloni property, the increased presence of hikers would deter dirt bikers and would-be vandals.
“Neighbor kids with the blessing of their parents have done a great amount of damage to the trails with their dirt bikes and four-wheelers,” he said. “The solution will come when we finish up the trails and have a steady stream of public hikers monitoring the property.”
Mocarsky agrees that more hikers would help. “I think that it will make things settle down. When you actually have that presence, it’s just going to be harder for them,” she said.
The Hopkinton police are aware of the problem, but Capt. Mark Carrier said the department simply doesn’t have enough officers to patrol the woods.
“It’s tough in those areas,” he said. “We have two officers patrolling 44 square miles. That’s why we need other ears and eyes, trying to get as much information as they can … If we do identify them, we go and find out who they are and who their parents are, but to prevent anyone from going into those areas is impossible.”
The notice boards on the preserve ask visitors who witness unauthorized activities such as dirt biking on the trails to take photos and get names if possible and to report the incident to the Hopkinton Police Department at 401-377-7750.