“WE need to take action.” This was the declaration by a leading New Milton councillor amid continued reports of BMX riders causing thousands of pounds of damage to woodland at Long Meadow in Barton to create ramps.
Town council amenities chairman Cllr Geoffrey Blunden told the committee trees were still being felled and soil excavated by some of the riders using the site, off Meadow Way, and the problem was getting worse.
As reported in the A&T, the committee heard in January that small willow trees had been cut down and land dug up to build mounds of earth.
It was estimated then that it would cost around £4,000 to restore the site, which was thought to have been targeted during the Christmas holidays.
Offenders are believed to have returned a number of times since then, causing further damage, with mature trees now said to have been attacked.
“This has been getting worse and it’s getting to the stage where we have to say enough is enough and we need to take action,” Cllr Blunden said.
The town council has been continuing to collaborate with the police as investigations into the matter are ongoing.
Although stressing youngsters may not be responsible for the damage, Cllr Blunden added youth coordinator Silma Ramsaywack had been trying to make contact with any who might have ridden their bikes at the site.
“It’s just a shame that the few have spoiled it for the majority who just want to ride their BMX bikes there,” he said.
Agreeing that something needed to be done, Cllr Robert Murrow said a resident had complained to him about bike riders pulling up trees at the site.
Cllr Alan O’Sullivan expressed regret at the problem, which he pointed out had only arisen after years of the area being used by BMX riders without incident. He suggested the town council may need to find a site that can specifically be used for this activity.
“I’ve seen other BMX tracks in the country,” he said. “All you need is some land to be mounded.”
Town clerk Graham Flexman ruled out Cllr Christine Ward’s suggestion that Long Meadow could host a managed BMX track, pointing out it is common land.
Cllr David Hawkins voiced concerns that the offenders’ actions may also threaten badger setts at the Long Meadow site.
He said: “They have chopped down 30-metre trees that had been mature. They’re so blasé about it that they have even left some tools behind.
“We should work to put it right and perhaps also look towards providing an actual BMX track.”