Every winter snowmobilers trespass across our yard to get from one street to another. They zip across the snow too fast to catch a license plate number. Between the noise of their engines and their protective helmets, it’s virtually impossible to attract their attention verbally. One year we were able to identify a neighbor boy and his friends as the culprits. A polite chat with the parents resolved the issue that winter. Sadly, the trend didn’t hold and each year there seems to be a new crop of noisy trespassers. Complaining to the local police produced no results. In fairness, the police really can’t do anything unless they (or we) can catch and/or identify the culprits and “prove” them to be the trespassers.
This year we decided we had had enough. In mid-December we hired a local man to put up a temporary fence to block the snowmobilers from using our yard as a shortcut. The fence was made of orange plastic and secured to metal poles pounded into the not-yet-frozen soil. Similar fences had graced other winter yards in town over the years so we didn’t think there would be any problem. Snow came, but snowmobilers didn’t. For the last six weeks life has been quiet and peaceful in regards to the snowmobilers. And the pristine, snow-covered lawn was a beautiful sight from my office window.
On Tuesday, January 19, we get a call from the local code enforcement office. It seems that our pretty orange fence, effective as it might be in discouraging snowmobilers, is in violation of a fence ordinance enacted last summer. The town fathers want the fence taken down. Now mind you, other village residents have erected a variety of temporary fences to keep snowmobilers off their property, too. We expressed our willingness to obtain a temporary permit. The code officer, a snowmobiler himself, empathized with our collective plight, but said there is no provision in the current fence law for a temporary permit. He would take the issue to the village board meeting that evening.
After much discussion of the problem of trespassing snowmobilers, the board tossed around the idea of increasing the fine for trespassing, but took no action beyond encouraging the police chief to have his officers identify and ticket violators. The code officer said he would speak to the leaders of the local snowmobilers club to encourage their members to abide by the no-trespassing law. A suggestion was made to put an ad in the local newspaper at the beginning of next winter to remind residents that temporary snow fences are not permitted under current law. In the meantime, the board would “ignore” the temporary fences and address the issue directly before next winter.
So our orange snow fence continued to stand in the cold and the snow and the wind, defending our yard from errant sledders. Until one unhappy snowmobiler decided to steal it. Yup, one of our village’s finest knocked on our door about 11:00 p.m. Saturday night and said he thought someone had stolen our fence. Sure enough, the entire section of fence that bordered one side of the yard was missing. The police officer said he had the missing fence in the back of his patrol car, and that a man was already in custody for the theft. The officer asked if we wanted to have the man arrested and the answer was a resounding “YES!”
This should be one for Jay Leno’s “dumb criminals” list. Apparently the “alleged” thief had been drinking and was upset because he couldn’t snowmobile over our yard, something he claimed to have been doing since he was a youngster. After stealing the section of fence, he dumped it in front of the Mayor’s house. The Mayor, who lives around the corner from us, told the police he knew where the fence had come from.
When the police approached our middle-aged suspect, he apparently engaged in a “run-and-tussle” of some sort with one officer. As I was signing the complaint form, the accused was down at the police station trying to wash pepper spray out of his eyes. Apparently pepper spray takes about an hour to wear off.
Kudos to our village police for outstanding work! More on our orange fence saga as it unfolds.