SARASOTA COUNTY - North Port Police say they'll be out in full force this weekend cracking down on illegal ATV riding and camping in the city. It's an issue they say has gotten out of hand lately. Many riders say there's simply no other place to go.
Police Chief Kevin Vespia says his department is gearing up for a growing problem on the weekends east of town. "There are a lot of people there -- and not many from North Port -- riding their ATV's in the roadways, in the swales...it's not legal."
Camp sites have caused fires. Recently a rider had to be taken by Bayflight after an accident. "We will be enforcing the city ordinance. We will be enforcing the trespassing statute. We will enforcing all state laws when it comes to rising on the roadways, riding on the swales, rising on public lands. There will be zero tolerance on the enforcement."
Kevin Vaughn likes to ride. As the president of the North Port Off Road Association, he says there is an issue with partying there. "We don't go near the problem area because we know it's a problem area. We don't want to be there and get hurt ourselves."
However, he says responsible riders have few choices. "There is a big gap from Brooksville south to Miami. There is just no place to ride."
Creating a legal riding area is something he says the city starving for visitors should look at once again. "We spoke with the city manager and city commission years ago about getting a place. It all just fell by the wayside."
"What I can tell you is we do not right now. We are going to enforce our laws." For now Chief Vespia says they've even tracked down property owners in the undeveloped areas to make sure permission has not been given. Saying it's pretty simple. "If you don't own the land, you don't know who the owner is, and you don't have permission to be on it, then you shouldn't be on it."
North Port police say they are going to be in the area all weekend and beyond.
The Redneck Yacht Club in Punta Gorda does allow four wheel vehicles but not motorcycles. A new park near there is in the works.