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Off-road vehicles damaging popular New London sledding hill

NEW LONDON -- A group of New London homeowners are hoping awareness leads to action as motorized vehicles have been damaging a city-owned sledding hill and the properties nearby.

Vanda Heuring of New London said Wednesday that she's seen numerous off-road vehicles tearing up New London's reputable "ski hill." The hill is located near the intersection of state Highway 9 and 195th Avenue Northeast.

The most recent incident occurred Sept. 16 when a motorized vehicle left ruts streaking all over the hill.

"It actually gets worse because ATVs and snowmobiles are kind of shredding through people's properties to get to the hill and basically terrorizing the neighborhood," said Heuring, who lives at the bottom of the hill.

Homeowners find fresh ruts from vehicles on the hill about every two weeks, she said.

Roger Imdieke, a 19-year homeowner in the area, said the hill has endured heavy traffic during the last few years.

It has also developed into a party spot, Imdieke said, and garbage is often strewn about.

Heuring said her family tried erecting multiple "No Trespassing" signs at their home but "they (ATV'ers) would just mow over the signs." Heuring also said trees she planted won't grow because of damage.

Residents of the neighborhood approached the City Council this summer about its concerns, but to little avail, Heuring said. The group requested more signage, fencing or boulder walls near the hill. Homeowners also asked for trash cans and a restroom facility to be installed.

Heuring said the council balked at the proposals and said riders would still find a way to use the hill.

City Administrator Trudie Guptill said the hill has been a "big headache" since the city assumed ownership from Peace Lutheran Church of New London about six years ago. Guptill said the council thought designating the hill as a city park would prevent vehicles from driving on the property.

"Just because there are rules, doesn't mean people follow them," Guptill said. "... It's just unfortunate that a few people can't follow rules and are going to wreck it for people that actually go up there and enjoy it."

Guptill said New London will add more "No motor vehicle" signs near the park.

Fencing the property, Guptill said, would not be cost-effective for the city: The hill doesn't generate tax revenue and is technically located outside city limits.

But damaged property and loitering aren't the only problems, Heuring said. For those with small children or pets, snowmobilers and ATV'ers make the hill dangerous, she said.

"We all really want to continue to see the kids from the community and adults -- big kids -- continuing to enjoy it," Imdieke said. "It's really fun to see all the sledders out there. But if (the city) had a little bit of guidelines so they can operate it better, I think everyone would have a little more fun."