LEWISTON — Off-road park owner Don Arel said he was a little surprised this weekend when he got a letter from the city telling him to shut down.

“I don’t really know what shut down means,” Arel said. “I don’t have front doors to close or employees to send home.”

What he has is All Wheels Off Road Park — 428 muddy acres in the northern part of the city and a lot of like-minded friends with ATVs and four-wheel drives.

The park is off of College Street near the Greene town line, on Old Farm Road.

“I can tell you, nobody is playing out there right now,” he said. “I did close the gate to my land, so I guess I am shut down.”

The city sent Arel and his wife a letter instructing them to discontinue the use of their land immediately or face fines.

Gil Arsenault, Lewiston’s director of planning and code enforcement, said Arel’s property has been used for an unpermitted business for years.

He allows four-wheel and a ATV driving on the site, provides a shooting range and allows camping. In exchange, he asks for a $10 donation for each user.

“It’s one thing to be a generous property owner and let snowmobiles and ATVs cross your property,” Arsenault said. “It’s another thing to have a gravel pit where you let some friends and family do some target practice. This is not that situation. This is advertised, bringing people in, asking for contributions and hosting events.”

Arsenault said the issue came to a head last week when he learned of scheduled events at the site and received information from Lewiston Police about them.

“It’s all well and good to do that, but permits need to be taken out,” Arsenault said.

According to Arsenault’s letter, Arel needs to file a petition and pay a $150 fee to appeal the notice.

Arel said that’s just too much. He tried to turn the park into a business years ago when he first bought the land, going so far as to create a limited liability corporation.

He learned he’d need Planning Board permission, wetland studies and other expensive engineering reports to do that, so he let the LLC lapse.

“I just kept doing it as a hobby,” he said. “We’ve been doing it for years as a hobby before, so we decided to keep doing that.”

He said he was told that he and his friends could continue using the land as a hobby. He said he does have donation boxes near the entrance.

“It goes toward paying the property taxes so that I don’t have to sell the land and I can keep it open for public recreation,” Arel said.

Last year, he said he took in $8,000 in donations and paid $12,000 in property taxes.

Arel said he is meeting with an attorney and considering his options.

“I’m not going to allow people, my friends, to do these activities on my land until I hear from him that I really am violating any laws,” Arel said. “I just can’t afford to pay any fines.”

[email protected]


Facebook comments