Though not quite as mainstream as soccer or baseball, all-terrain vehicle riders represent a considerable niche in the recreational activities of Northern Virginians. Just how many people in the county (estimates range from 500 to 5,000) enjoy off-road activities is unknown because there are no public ATV facilities in Prince William County or in Northern Virginia. Most enthusiasts are forced to take their bikes out of the area and, many times, out of state.
Attempts by a local landowner to establish a place to ride for himself and others like him, is the latest flare up in an ongoing struggle that pits property owner rights against the rights of neighbors. Of course, the goal of the ATV riders is not to find new and innovative ways to annoy neighbors, but rather an attempt to find a place to ride which doesn’t require a 3-hour drive and a full tank of gas.
County officials tried to solve the ATV problem a couple of years ago, but an off road committee and a series of meetings proved fruitless. The meetings and studies yielded next to nothing and virtually ruled out an ATV course near the county landfill in Independent Hill. That idea was laid to rest by homeowners in the area who felt that establishing such a facility next to a landfill would have been too much for the neighborhood to bear.
So far, no solution has surfaced and ATV riders continue to search for ways to practice their sport close to home as the county continues to build acres upon acres of ball fields and local parks.
The main problem is nothing new. Those outside the off-road community contend that land is too valuable and too scarce to build an ATV course in Northern Virginia. Undeveloped land is being gobbled up by developers who are building subdivisions faster than they can name them. The rest is being set aside for historical or environmental purposes. Even simple farm land is a dwindling commodity.
These factors place long odds on the prospects of ATV enthusiasts establishing a park somewhere in the county or elsewhere in Northern Virginia. But it’s not impossible.
A solution should not be expected to come from the local government. County supervisors and the Park Authority seem to have their hands full scraping together enough money to build golf courses and ball fields.
The elusive solution may come from the private sector which includes businesses that sell and service ATVs. Land is another concern though it would seem that the federal government could help. That is, since the federal government took so much land from Prince William and Stafford counties to build Quantico Marine Corps Base more than 60 years ago. What’s a dozen acres here or there.
Finding a suitable facility locally or within a short drive would help those on both sides of the ATV debate. A local course would serve the area’s ATV enthusiasts and there would be one less excuse for riders to plow through posted property or through neighborhoods.