NEWTON COUNTY – Newton County Sheriff Glenn Wheeler says his office has been very busy lately with traffic and parking problems, particularly in the areas of Boxley and Ponca and the parking areas for Hawksbill Crag and Hemmed in Hollow. The problems occur every day, but are worse on weekends.
Wheeler says the bugling elk and the fall colors are bringing a higher number of visitors and with that, a higher amount of disrespect and problems.
"The vast majority of our visitors act as they should and cause no problems at all," Wheeler said. "But quite a few of them do cause lots of issues."
Wheeler said common problems are people stopping in the roadway to watch elk, people parking along the roads in ways that impede traffic and obstruct views, parking on private property and improper driving. Driving issues range from driving so slowly that it impedes the flow of the traffic to very fast and reckless driving.
"We have some of the best roads in the country for fun driving," Wheeler said, "but the way some of the people push the limits amazes me. They seem to forget that we live here, drive our vehicles here, drive our farm equipment here and raise children here. Our area isn't simply their playground or racetrack. In two days recently, we dealt with three motorcycles and five sports cars driving in excess of 110 miles per hour. And that's just the ones we had contact with. We had reports of other reckless drivers all over the county."
Wheeler says that even though resources are few in Newton County, he and his staff work hard to try and stay on top of the issues and will be assigning personnel to the areas as feasible. Violators will be cited if needed and parked vehicles that are a hazard will be towed at the expense of the owner of the car. Private property owners have the right to have cars towed from private property at no cost to them. The owner of the car is responsible for that cost as well.
"It mainly comes down to common sense and respect," Wheeler said. "We don't go to where they live and park in their streets and roads, or drive recklessly. If we were to, we would expect appropriate consequences. And I'm sure their law enforcement folks, like us, have plenty of other things to do. We would just ask that visitors be respectful of our area and our residents."