- Associated Press - Sunday, March 30, 2014

KINGSPORT, Tenn. (AP) - Officials at Bays Mountain Park in East Tennessee say they are taking steps to reduce the amount of off-roading at the nature preserve.

Bays Mountain naturalist Fred Hilton told the Kingsport Times-News (https://bit.ly/1gYf4Ty) that the move comes because serious damage is being done to areas of the park.

“They’ve done this for years, but on a much smaller scale. In the past year, it has increased exponentially and now they’re starting to cut trees, dig other trails up the side of the mountain and just really doing a lot of damage to the park,” Hilton said. “We’re getting complaints not only from park users but also from some of the folks who live near the entrances to the park, complaints about groups coming in late at night and making a lot of noise, playing loud music.

“It’s gotten to the point … where we’re going to have to do something about it.”

Hilton says officials aren’t against four wheeling, but a nature preserve isn’t the place for it.

“We don’t want to paint these people as a bunch of thugs. We are going to try and come up with a list of places they can go four-wheeling legally. There’s quite a few places around, but they do charge.”

He says no trespassing signs are being posted along areas that are popular with off-roaders. Park officials have also asked the Kingsport Police Department patrol the area, which could mean citations for violators.

He said the off-roading is occurring about three miles from the nature center and doesn’t appear to have reached the animal habitats.

“They tried to cut a trail around a gate to where you get on Lake Road, which brings you right into the animal habitats,” Hilton said. “By allowing this to continue, we’re really letting them do damage and we can’t allow that to continue.”

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Information from: Kingsport Times-News, https://www.timesnews.net

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