County seeks to stop trespassers

COVINGTON - Trespassers on county property that is not yet available for public use now don't have the law on their side.

County commissioners passed a resolution Tuesday night allowing the posting of No Trespassing signs on property that is not open to the public and the prosecution of violators.

The move was motivated by complaints from residents that people are riding ATVs, shooting guns and dumping trash on a 120-acre tract purchased by the county as greenspace.

The landlocked wooded property is bordered by Gum Creek, Edwards and Mount Zion roads and surrounded by residences. The property was purchased for greenspace preservation and could be used as a park in the future.

Several residents have notified Commissioner Tim Fleming that people were using the property for hunting and other activities.

Fleming said he found ATV tracks, alcohol bottles and piles of trash when he recently toured the property.

Though the Sheriff's Office has been called by nearby residents, they could not prosecute trespassers.

"The people doing the trespassing knew the county owned it, and they said they had a right to be there," Fleming said.

Also, the law requires that people be given prior warning, such as posting of No Trespassing signs, in order to be prosecuted.

Fleming said he's fearful that someone could get hurt, especially if guns are being fired on the property.

"It's an accident waiting to happen," he said.

The liability to the county, and the cost to remove the trash dumped there, is also a concern, he said.

The property has two access points, one off Dover Road and another in Creekside Longview subdivision, which will be gated to further discourage violators. A small amount of fencing will also be erected. No Trespassing signs will be posted along the tree line.

Commissioners decided to include all county properties not currently open for public use in the resolution, which allows for posting of No Trespassing signs and prosecution of violators.

"It's for the well-being of all the citizens, really," Fleming said.

Commissioner Mort Ewing cited as an example a 2007 incident at the undeveloped Stanton Springs Technology Park site when a 16-year-old girl was killed during a joyride on some construction equipment with several friends.

The girl was riding on the side of the front-end loader when the driver encountered a steep grade that resulted in the vehicle flipping over, trapping her beneath the vehicle.

Ewing said problems with trespassers there have been resolved following the posting of signs after the incident.

Crystal Tatum can be reached at crystal.tatum@newtoncitizen.com.