Thursday, July 20, 2006
Four-wheeler association wants permission to ride
By SUE WATSON
In yesteryear, families and young children created their entertainment through baseball and walked or rode mules and horses to their destinations of fun, according to Bobby Joe Adkins.
Today’s youngsters are looking for something to do now that the Sunday afternoon baseball game is passe in the South and walking or riding a mule and horse are no longer the major modes of transportation.
The new Sunday afternoon family entertainment in Marshall County is noisy but something young families and old, alike, want to do for enjoyment, he said.
Four-wheeling is it, according to presidents of five of six four-wheeler clubs in Marshall County. All claim membership in the North West Four-Wheeler Association.
The clubs include the Trail Blazers, Richard Moore, president; The Hot Boyz, Adkins, president; The Desperadoes, Theo Stephen, president; The Rough Riders, Woodrow Faulkner, president; The Outlaws, Curtis Hardin, president; and 38 Special, Charles Tally, president.
The association meets on one of the presidents’ property for an afternoon of riding and picnicking monthly, Adkins said. The meeting location is rotated around the clubs so no community gets hit with too much traffic or loud noise for more than one weekend in a row - with the possible exception of the Outlaws, who have an event every Saturday and Sunday at a community north of Byhalia, according to some of the club presidents.
The clubs claim their fun is clean except for one which is reputed to be loud, to play vulgar music and to do some beer drinking, according to one president. Parents take their children. Dads, wives, daughters and sons are all getting in on the riding, according to Theo Stephen. It’s family entertainment, with the wives and daughters riding, sometimes.
But there is one glitch to the issue of four-wheeler clubs, taken up before the board of supervisors at the July 10 meeting.
Zoning is getting complaints and does not know who to contact about the complaints.
The clubs did not know they needed a zoning permit, said Annie Moffitt, a member of the group who attended the board meeting to ask that the association be allowed to continue holding events. Rep. Kelvin Buck was another high profile four-wheeler enthusiast at the meeting.
Zoning director Conway Moore explained to the club members that permits are required for all events that charge admission. Beer sales are out of the question without a state and local license (permit).
Adkins, speaking on behalf of the association, said no beer is sold at the events, but people bring their coolers. Retired, Adkins and his wife promote the association’s activities because they enjoy Sunday afternoon play and believe it is wholesome for themselves and for the county youth, who otherwise have little to do in this mostly rural county.
Adkins said the four-wheeler clubs meet and compete group to group and funds are distributed to charities like Hurricane Katrina victims and St. Jude Hospital.
Seventy-five percent of the participation is youngsters.
“In this county there are not a lot of activities for kids,” he said. “Some play basketball in the back yard. I understand we’ve been put into the same situation (category) as horse racing. This is a benefit. We want to ask the board what is the problem we are causing?”
Zoning director Conway Moore responded.
“We started getting complaints about noise from the neighbors, some complaints about loud music and cutting up.”
“Any complaints from Laws Hill?” one club member asked.
“Yes, we have,” said Moore. “We also have complaints in (supervisors) Dixon and Taylor’s districts.”
Buck asked to speak.
“I do a little racing,” he said. “Matter of fact, I just won my first race. Quite frankly, there are not a lot of places in the county where I can have my family (for an outing).”
Some of the four-wheeler competitions are like family reunions, he said.
“A lot of folks don’t want anything (any kind of organized play),” he said. “They have events like this in other counties. People complain about elected officials but we stay in office. Some modifications are probably needed to make (the events) neighbor friendly. It’s something a lot of people enjoy.”
Adkins added, “It was brought to my attention that the board voted on the issue, and not in our favor.”
District 3 supervisor Keith Taylor responded.
“Growing up as a kid, I rode motorcross on Saturday and Sunday,” he said. “I had no clue who had the motorcross. I think it’s a problem of them popping up without a permit. I don’t have a problem with kids racing 4-wheelers. People complain. I think if you had gone through the proper procedures, you wouldn’t have complaints.”
Moffitt apologized to Moore.
“I didn’t know we had to have a permit; we didn’t know we were breaking the law. We were trying to have some wholesome activity and we don’t want anyone to be shut down. We are not doing anything wrong. Let’s get the permit and let the four-wheelers roll.”
Cheers and laughter rose from the audience.
“We decided to move them around to make it convenient,” Adkins said. “It saves gas to put events close to where people live.”
Stephen said he didn’t know about the permit requirement until he spoke with Moore after holding competitions on his land.
“People bring their families and their picnic tables and it’s clean fun,” he said. “No arguing, no cussing, no fighting. I can’t afford to come to the Holly Springs dragstrip. This is something where at first there were just a bunch of men riding, but now my wife, then my daughter and then my 4-year-old son are doing it. Kids and their parents come out. We held two this year on Robert Chapel Road and donated the money to Hudsonville Church and the fire department.”
Supervisor Zinn spoke.
“My position is, as Stephen and Moffitt said, no notification. People have had horse shows for 20 years and I thought some consideration is given to those clubs that had been in operation.”
Taylor said a club races 4-wheelers every Sunday near his home, that he gets lots of phone calls about it.
“The problem is when an elderly couple or a couple with young kids in the yard hear some vulgar language and loud music can be through the woods. Maybe we did a poor job of notifying the public of new zoning permit guidelines.”
“People are selling beer,” supervisor Eddie Dixon added.
“Not selling, everybody has their own coolers,” Adkins said.
“All we’re asking y’all to do is go to zoning,” said Dixon.
“The whole purpose of the permit is to have someone to go to if there are complaints,” said Taylor.
Supervisor Ronnie Joe Bennett added, “We can get the bad ones (clubs drawing complaints) out by pulling a permit.”
Rising to her feet, Moffitt spoke to the club members in attendance concluding the discourse.
“Everybody knows what you got to do,” she said. “Let’s get legal. As of today, let’s run a clean operation. We are going to respect this board.”
The zoning board met Thursday and approved a recreational park (Wilson’s Park) located off Laws Hill Road on Daryl Wilson Drive. The park will be for family reunions, horse shows, festivals, mud dragging, motorcycle riding, etc. The permit approval in the name of Annie Moffitt and her family, was recommended for approval with stipulations that the operators will notify the sheriff’s office and zoning of any complaints and comply with all local and state laws.
Curtis Harden, of Highway 309 North, in the Byhalia area, withdrew his application for a permit to hold four-wheeler races on his property. Harden had been using the property for four-wheeler competitions and is president of The Outlaws Four-Wheelers Club.
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