WSAZ Investigates | All Terrain at all Hours
RUSH, Ky. (WSAZ) - A small, typically quiet town in eastern Kentucky is now anything but, according to those who live in the area.
“They think this whole area is just their playground, and it’s not. We live here,” said Shawna McCown who lives in Rush, Kentucky.
McCown has lived in Rush her whole life and says for years it was always peaceful.
“You could sit out on the front porch and have conversations with your loved ones, and you could drive down the roads without having to worry about things being in your way, and you could sleep at night,” she said.
McCown says the peace ended when Rush Off-Road opened near her property.
For 10 years, Rush Off-Road, an ATV park with more than 7,000 acres and more than 100 miles of trails, located in Boyd and Carter counties has drawn large crowds and brings tourism dollars into the county. Community members say the problems it brings, can outweigh the good.
“As it grew, and popularity grew as word got around about how fun it was out here, but now it’s out of control,” McCown said.
While the hours on Rush Off-Road’s website states the trails close at 11 p.m. Monday-Thursday and 12:01 a.m. on the weekends, McCown says the riding never stops.
The sounds can be heard on her property all through the night, so she started taking videos with her cell phone and gave WSAZ those videos.
She showed us videos, where you can hear ATVs and their revving engines from midnight until past 4 a.m.
“I’m literally bolted up in the middle of the night by them revving their engines, and my heart feels like it’s going to pop out of my chest,” McCown said. “I think are we getting bombed or what? It’s ruining lives to put it blankly. It is literally ruining our way of life out here.”
After speaking with McCown, WSAZ started digging and found Boyd County has a noise ordinance on the books. It states that noise should cease Monday through Thursday from 11 p.m. until 6 a.m. and Friday through Monday from 12:01 a.m. until 6 a.m.
WSAZ went to Boyd County Sheriff Bobby Jack Woods to see what could be done.
The sheriff says complaints related to the ATV park are nothing new. In years past, he says they would receive calls about traffic control and ATVs driving on the main roads, which according to Kentucky law is illegal.
In recent weeks, Sheriff Woods says the calls have shifted to primarily noise complaints.
Ahead of Rush Off-Road’s anniversary bash weekend, which draws thousands of riders, the sheriff says he met with Rush Off-Road owner E.B. Lowman about the concerns.
“People have to follow the rules, and people can’t come in here and get on an ATV and ride at 4 o’clock in the morning. It’s just not going to happen. We’re going to stop it,” said Sheriff Woods.
The problems, however, did not stop. So WSAZ sat down with the sheriff after the anniversary weekend. He said in a matter of four nights, the department received about 50 complaint calls for noise and ATVs driving on the roads. He says this is the most calls related to the park his department has received in that timeframe.
“I was just shocked how many people called me personally with complaints. People I’ve known my whole life that had never called the sheriff’s department about anything, but they called me and wanted me to know there’s just utter chaos going on out here,” said Sheriff Woods.
He says deputies wrote about 35 citations during the weekend, but one of those deputies was hurt in the process.
The sheriff says the deputy was dragged by an ATV after stopping the driver on the road.
“He starts to drive off, and he grabs the guy and of course the guy is seat belted in and when he does he kind of gets caught up in the bar and the guy drags him 100 150 feet,” said Sheriff Woods. “Tore his pants off from the knees down, drug his pants off, drug his shoes off, drug his gun belt off, and there is no excuse for that and I am not going to tolerate that.”
The deputy was OK, but they have not been able to track down the man responsible.
WSAZ spoke with Rush Off-Road owner E.B. Lowman at the beginning of the anniversary weekend event and discussed some of the noise concerns with him.
“We are proactive and try to address it the best we can. We don’t race during the night hours. It’s all during the day,” he said.
After a deputy ended up injured and all the complaint calls, WSAZ went back to speak with Lowman about the issues neighbors say are only getting worse.
We played him a video that was sent to us of riders, riding at 2:42 a.m. and asked him how he would feel hearing the noise that early in the morning.
“I would want somebody to help me address it which is what we intend to do,” Lowman said.
WSAZ asked Lowman if he feels responsible for everything that is happening, including the citations for DUIs and disorderly conduct.
“I don’t know does anyone in our park condone driving under the influence and nor will we ever,” Lowman said. “To answer your question, no I do not feel responsible, because that is not indicative of our riders. I think it’s outliers and if someone is driving under the influence they should be dealt with appropriately.”
WSAZ asked if he feels he has gotten over his head for the amount of people that come to the park.
“I think they were a lot of calls this weekend, which was new to us and we will address accordingly,” Lowman said. “Overall, this weekend was very positive. We had people from all over the continental United States, we had people from Mexico this weekend, and I think when people are coming to our area to enjoy themselves for vacation it’s a win for all of us.”
We asked Lowman what his message would be to people who are frustrated with the noise.
“We are writing a plan with the sheriff and the county, and we have every intention of addressing them and hope to right the ship,” Lowman said.
McCown says she does not have any problems with an ATV park being in her area, but she just wants the rules and regulations followed.
“I would be happy to hear those noises if I knew it was going to stop at a reasonable hour and I didn’t have to hear it all night long,” she said. “Instead I hear it, and I’m like here’s another sleepless night that’s coming. I understand why people love it. I get it, and I want people to be able to enjoy it, but you can’t keep going like this and acting like we’re not here. We matter too.”
Both the Boyd County Sheriff and Judge Executive Eric Chaney say the plan Lowman was referring to includes being more aggressive with enforcing the noise ordinance on his end and the county stepping up its enforcement, as well.
Lowman told WSAZ that in the past when community members complained, he moved trails away from other people’s property and put up fences.
Sheriff Woods also says Lowman is aware if the problems are not addressed, the county could pursue legal action against him.
Part of the park is in Carter County, which does not have a noise ordinance. WSAZ spoke with the Carter County Judge Executive Mike Malone, who says he has not heard of any noise complaints coming to his office.
He says if he received reoccurring complaints, he’d have the county attorney look into it, but does not want to put any ordinances into effect beyond what is necessary.
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