DARLINGTON—The council chamber was overflowing with citizens listening to the conversations about ATV trails in the city of Darlington at the Darlington City Council Policies, Procedures and Ordinance Committee meeting on Tuesday, Dec. 6.
A large crowd of differing views filled the room to listen and share varying points of view on two very different topics: allowing an extension of the ATV trail through a residential neighborhood to allow access to the Lafayette County Fairgrounds or allowing the use of ATVs city-wide to access the trail from individuals’ homes.
No decision was reached after an hour of discussion on such a large issue, but another public meeting is scheduled for Jan. 25, 2012, at 6 p.m.
Bill Moody, chairman of the Lafayette County Fair Committee, requested on behalf of the fair committee that access to the fairgrounds be permitted to help the county make money on the fairgrounds. He said the county lost $6,000 on the fair last year and the city’s campground along the ATV trail is consistently full on weekends; rather than turning away potential campers who choose to ride the trails in the area, the fairgrounds campground could be another option.
Darlington City Council alderwoman Cindy Corley said camping at the fairgrounds during the Friday night races has been an issue in the past. Moody said the racing contract is up for negotiations and the fair committee is in the position to make changes to the contract if necessary.
Alderwoman Bev Anderson was disappointed the county didn’t install a bridge with funding that was available many years ago. She said it would have been the perfect solution now. Alderman John Sonsalla said looking into a bridge would be the best conclusion. He recommended Moody investigate Department of Natural Resources requirements and funding options for a bridge.
“Bridges aren’t cheap, and there are flood plain issues,” Sonsalla said. “But it would solve a lot of issues.”
Moody asked that the city would approve the trail extension through a portion of the city to connect the fairgrounds to the trail and help generate some income so a bridge might be a future possibility. He said the route that was requested isn’t set in stone. The fair committee would just like access for ATVs from the trail to the fairgrounds. He said the bridge wouldn’t get completed until 2013 at the earliest if it were even possible.
Deb Picket, wife of alderman Steve Pickett, said there are DNR grants available. The county would also need to look into security of the track and horse area if allowing it to be open.
“We need some sort of conclusion where at least everybody is somewhat happy,” Sonsalla said.
Citizens who are against the city being opened up to ATV access complained of noise and irresponsible behavior.
“It’s their passion,” Sonsalla said. “They try to police themselves.”
Darlington Police Chief Jason King said of the calls he’s received, he believes much of the resistance is a result of misinformation. He said the cons don’t outweigh the pros in this situation and although there is temptation to do wrong on the existing trails, it isn’t occurring as people believe.
“Personally and professionally there is no reason not to allow this,” King said.
King said the city reserves the right to make restrictions for the trails in the city limits. However, the city cannot restrict access based on residency.
“All of the things you’re afraid of can be addressed in an ordinance,” King said.
Sonsalla said he can’t vote on the issue because he owns land along the fairgrounds and it would be a conflict of interest because he potentially could make money off of campers at the fairgrounds.