MEXICO — Carleton Avenue resident Robert Hamm isn’t asking for much when he posts his 50 feet of land as off-limits to all-terrain vehicles and snowmobiles. It’s a matter of respect for him and the law that allows him to deny use of his property to off-road traffic.

Hamm, 70, a Colorado native and retired mental health therapist, moved to 51 Carleton Ave. in 1999 from New Mexico and has had problems ever since with trespassers. He said he’s even been purposely run into, twice, by ATV riders.

“A couple of times when we first moved here, we put in fences back there and they tore them right out,” he said.

“And you call the police and the police say it’s a wardens issue, so you call the wardens and they say it’s a local police issue. So you call the police again and get told, ‘Well, maybe it’s the sheriff’s issue.’ So you call the sheriff’s office and don’t get anywhere. For years and years, that’s what was going on.”

He said he’s even called former Gov. John Baldacci and the state ATV organization  seeking relief.

Hamm has also erected “no trespassing” signs, “no ATVs” signs and “no snowmobiles” signs for years, to no effect. People steal the signs, or destroy them or ignore them and drive across his land anyway, according to Hamm and police. He’s also had people erroneously tell him he doesn’t own the land.

He said he has also contacted the Office of the Maine Attorney General to no avail.

Now he’s trying to get relief from state legislators, although the Mexico ATV club has erected a gate preventing people from driving ATVs through his property. He said Clyde Wardwell Jr. of the ATV club locked the gate, but someone stole the lock, so he wrapped a chain around the gate and post.

Hamm said that in the past his neighbor erected the gate first to protect his daughter who often wandered onto the trail, but people using the trail tore the gate out. Vandals have also torn out other gates along the trail.

To try and alleviate the problem this past winter, the local snowmobile club and the town marked a bypass route using Carleton Avenue to go around Hamm’s property. That and the gate that’s back up seem to be keeping ATV traffic off the property.

On Thursday, ATVers and a young family out for a walk along the river respected Hamm’s property by taking the bypass route. One bicyclist, however, ignored the signs and rode across Hamm’s property while he was standing on it, said, “Hi,” and waved and pedaled on. At the gate, he stopped and walked the bike around on a well-used path.

“No respect,” Hamm said, shaking his head in disbelief. Although he quickly added that he has more of a problem with ATVers rather than bicyclists and pedestrians.

Making matters worse, however, someone used a Sawzall or mechanized saw during the night of the Fourth of July to cut apart a wooden rail fence given him by the Mexico ATV club to protect his garden, Hamm said. He put it up a few hours before it was destroyed.

Hamm said he hoped the fence would prevent people on the trail from stealing or destroying plants in his garden. The rail fence fronted the trail but wasn’t on the trail. He reported the criminal mischief complaint to Mexico police. Chief Roy Hodsdon said Friday that they are actively investigating it and have suspects.

One contributing problem is that the trail has been in existence since the 1930s or longer. It crosses the rear of Hamm’s property, paralleling the Swift River. At one time, it used to be wide enough for cars and other vehicles.

Chief Hodsdon said Friday that it’s a matter of re-educating the public that they can no longer use that section that Hamm owns and has closed to all traffic. Hodsdon calls the well-used path the Honda Trail, because decades ago, people used to drive big red three-wheel-drive Hondas on it.

“It’s going to take us time to re-educate the citizens that they need to walk around his property,” Hodsdon said. “He is a landowner and he has a right to close his property. The Mexico ATV club wants to do the right thing and work with him to solve the issue.”

Hodsdon said his officers are also doing night patrols with their police ATVs and trying to change up the times that they are monitoring the trail.

“We need to know who is harassing him,” Hodsdon said. “Mr. Hamm is being victimized and it’s got to end. Once we find out who it is, we will charge them.”

Hodsdon said he has continually worked to rectify the problem, going to the extreme of  writing an ATV grant to deal with ATV abuse issues on Hamm’s land specifically and at a beach on the Swift River. Money from the grant allows his officers to increase ATV patrols.

“We want it to stop,” Hodsdon said.

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