I have found out in the little bit of time I have lived in West Virginia so far that residents of this area are very protective of their land. I understand this fully since you cannot grow land for lack of better terms. Hunting is also a big part of West Virginia Culture. For two months out of the year, you have camoflague clad hunters out in the cold waiting with an itchy finger to shoot some kind of live animal. If you’ve ever stepped into West Virginia at all, I am more than sure you have seen a No Trespassing sign posted somewhere.
I full and well know the potential reprecussions of crossing boundaries posted as such, but typically they do not concern me. Curtis Seltzer stated this, and it rung pretty loud with me:
Country-property owners normally find one of three types of trespassers: those who feel they have a right to be on your land even though they know they don’t; those who know better but trespass anyway; and those who actually do have a legal right to be there.
I think I fall under the second category of “I know I shouldn’t but I do it anyways.” While private property is private property, I have always felt these signs were to forbid hunters and ATV junkies from entering one’s land. If one is to… well… trespass with no intention of harm, leave no trace, then no blood-no foul in my book.
In several instances I have seen No Trespassing signs be put up on land I bike on, and I merely went to the owners of the land and asked if they were okay with local cyclists using the land. EVERY SINGLE TIME I have done this, the land owners thank me for coming to them, but state that there were other groups or individuals that the signs were intended for. (Druggies, ATVs, Hunters, Skateboarders)
The sad thing is that on group rides, or trying to get from one MTB spot to another, I am so highly dependent on ATV trails for their conveinant doubletrack that it would almost be a shame for them to be gone. Not going to lie… I think they do more trail maintenance than most of the MTB’ers around here.
All in all, West Virginia’s Trespassing laws are pretty standard compared to the rest of the nation’s, and the only additional material presented is mainly to deal with hunters:
WEST VIRGINIA: Written permission must be in the possession of anyone who will shoot, hunt, fish, or trap upon the fenced, enclosed or posted grounds or lands of another person. Written permission is also required to peel trees or timber, build fires or do any other act or thing thereon in connection with or auxiliary to shooting, hunting, fishing or trapping. Hunters who kill or injure any domestic animal or fowl, destroy or damage any bars, gates, or fence, or leave open any bars or gates resulting in damage to the owner, can be held criminally liable as well as liable to the landowner. The landowner may personally arrest any such person found violating this law and take the hunter before a JUSTICE OF THE PEACE for trial. In such instances, the landowner is vested with all the powers and rights of a game warden.
There is so much land in West Virginia that has been untapped for farms or residential use that is just great for singletrack. Its really amazing. This is also where I tend to draw the line. I typically will not trespass on government, business, or fenced lands just to go mountain bike riding. For one reason is that fences suck. Bikes are heavy, Barbed wire hurts, Electric fences suck even more, and I know government facilities or business locations are less hesitant on calling the police.
What about you guys?
Do posted signs play a role as to where you are willing or unwilling to MTB?
What are your opinions of unpermitted ATV trails?
Have you ever asked landowners permission to MTB on their property?