By Dustin Luca
---- — HAMPSTEAD — Property owners of a 217-acre wildlife refuge on Big Island Pond are taking extra steps to crack down on anyone using recreational vehicles there illegally.
The Governor’s Island Association is a group of 14 property owners living on Big Island Pond. The group is upset because off-highway recreational vehicles, including ATVs and snowmobiles, are becoming more prevalent on the state-designated sanctuary, according to association president Ted Williams.
Recreational vehicles harm the island’s soil and disturb the wildlife protected by the sanctuary, Williams said.
”The wildlife has come to use the island as a sanctuary because they know there’s no hunting and there’s no motor vehicles around the woods,” Williams said. “The lake is kind of unusual in that everywhere seems to be wildlife we’re acquiring that we’ve never had before.”
Wildlife at Governor’s Island, which is about 240 acres, includes several types of forest birds, as well as eagles, ospreys, blue herons, turkey and more. The pond itself is 500 acres in size and reaches into Atkinson, Derry and Hampstead.
While Governor’s Island is owned by the 14 property owners, 240 acres of it was offered to the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests under a conservation easement 25 years ago. The easement prohibits any development or vehicles on it while still giving the association’s members ownership of their land.
Williams recalled an incident a few years when six people riding ATVs were tearing down signs defending the sanctuary.
“The next day, we tracked them. It was fresh snow, and we tracked them to the main land,” Williams said. “They were all issued $100 fines.”
As recreational vehicle use has increased, the association has stepped up patrols of the area, and they’re prosecuting trespassers, according to Williams.
Those caught on the property will be charged with trespassing, Williams said.
The association is calling for violations to be reported to the Hampstead Police Department at 329-5700 and New Hampshire Fish and Game at 271-3129.