‘Be Courteous’ Sign Ripped Out

Wednesday September 21, 2022

Photo: Stewart Lytle / The Town Common. The sign ripped out of its holes and thrown on the ground.

NEWBURYPORT — On the previous Friday, the Parks Department staff installed two signs in hopes of ending the Battle of March’s Hill between young bike riders/jump builders and mostly adults who like to hike the hills and live next to it.

One of the signs, urging those who use the March’s Hill park to be “courteous,” did not make it through Monday afternoon. 

The large, heavy metal sign was ripped out of the ground and thrown about 10 feet into the woods beside one of the bikers’ most popular jumps. 

The sign, lying on the ground, advises: “Call 911 for Emergencies or Code Breakers.” 

There is no proof who tore out the sign and threw it into a wooded ravine. 

It is not the first time the Parks Department has posted signs restricting the bikers from digging holes, building ramps and cutting trees to straighten out trails. Months ago, the Parks Department posted smaller signs telling the bikers to obey city ordinances and not cut new holes and trails on city property.

Those signs were ripped down. 

The Parks Commission voted at its August meeting to create the rules for the young bikers who like to ride and jump their bikes in the hilly section of the 17-acre park. 

“It’s very important that there is a public list of expected behaviors there so I think some type of signage has been a long time coming, actually,” Parks Commission Chair Ted Boretti said at the meeting. 

The commission also voted to put up ropes to limit the area where the bikers may ride. The signs went up, but as of last week, the ropes have not been put up.

Placed near the makeshift jumps, the signs twice listed the rule that prohibits digging holes. In bold lettering, it reads: “No Digging or Changes to Trails. No Cutting Trees/Plants.” It also implores the riders to “Enjoy, Follow the Code, Ride Safely, No Digging.”

The sign addresses other concerns of Coffin Court neighbors and walkers. It bans littering, specifying that this park is a “Carry In & Carry Out Park.” Empty drink cans and bottles have been left along the trails, along with tools, personal clothing and a helmet. However, there is no proof that the trash was left by the bikers.

The rules also ban amplified sound. The neighbors complained to the Parks Commission that the bikers, particularly teenage bikers, played loud music while they rode and worked. 

Parks officials and neighbors have been concerned that the bikers, navigating the trails and making the jumps, would be injured. So, the first rule on the sign is that the bikers must wear helmets. 

Bike riding after dark and on muddy trails is also prohibited, as is motor bikes. The neighbors said older teenagers and young adults played music in the woods after dark. 

The rules ban any alcohol or drug use, although the litter seen last week did not include beer cans or alcohol bottles. 

Boretti earlier this summer proposed that the city create an accurate, current map of the bike trails in the west section of the park. And he wanted the city to hire a safety expert to determine if the jumps, some of which are high, are safe for the bikers to ride. 

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