By Anya TikkaWESTFALL — Mill Rift residents are tired of hearing the deafening noise across the Delaware River from the motorcycle racing taking place on the scenic Hawk’s Nest mountainside on Route 97 on the New York side of the river, explained Jerry Dotey, Westfall Township Board of Supervisors vice chairman, in a phone call with The Pike County Courier.
Dotey recently moved to Mill Rift and is experiencing firsthand what many residents have been complaining about for years. The supervisor is threatening to take the matter all the way to Harrisburg legislators unless something is done.
“The noise is amplified by the fact the river is basically between two granite walls. You can’t sit outside on your porch in the summer and enjoy because of the noise from across the river,” he said. “This is truly noise pollution.”
He added, “Let’s see if the Commonwealth can bring any pressure on these folks.” Dotey is prepared to bring legislators to Mill Rift to witness the noise.
Noise workshopLast month, a "Hawks Nest Noise Issue Workshop” was held at Westfall Township Municipal Building in Matamoras with representatives from National Park Service, Upper Delaware Council, Upper Delaware Scenic Byway, Upper Delaware Council, and Town of Deerpark to discuss and work on the issues.
David Dean, Town of Deerpark deputy supervisor and UDC representative, expressed his view in a phone call. He said he went to the meeting, but in his view the number of people who complain is small, and the town is doing what it can to police the stretch of road at Hawks Nest.
“I live nearby myself, and the noise doesn’t bother me. National Park Service cut our funds, but we’re carrying on patrols with funds coming out of our town funds.” He also acknowledged this is a difficult problem and that Deerpark residents hear the noise also, but once the Deerpark Police Department issues tickets and leave, it starts back up again.
Tickets issuedAccording to Deerpark police, from April 1 to June 17, 23 tickets were issued on the stretch out of 50 in total for that period. Two crashes were also investigated during that time on Route 97. The tickets were issued were for speeding, uninspected vehicles, improper passing, unlicensed operation and unregistered motorcycles.
Richard Sztyndor, Deerpark police chief explained in a phone call, “There are complaints over there. I think the complaints come mostly from Westfall, and when we get them, we dispatch patrols to that area.”
Sztyndor said he’s committed to assigning patrol cars at Hawks Nest on summer weekends as resources allow to act as a deterrent.
As to what happens with those calls, “It depends on the circumstances,” Sztyndor said, and, “There’s only so much you can do.”
The problem has been escalating in recent years, Dotey said. “We’re getting a lot of complaints from residents in Mill Rift and all the way down the river to Matamoras, where people can still hear the noise. Fifty to 60 residents are affected, he said. “NPS and UDC are trying to do something to help to relieve this problem, but they really can’t do much. It’s up to Town of Deerpark and police to patrol it over there.” He added that state troopers whose responsibility is to patrol the road were invited, however did not attend the meeting.
As to the grant from the National Park Service again next year, he doesn’t have much faith in it. “They had it before, and nothing happened.”
Dotey pointed out he’s not opposed to regular bikers and other motorists who act respectfully and pass through Hawks Nest on their way to places up or down river. “What bothers us is the racing going on there, local groups. They must be local because you hear them every weekend and during the week, too. They are speeding at maximum speed through the dangerous road. It’s a bad situation. I believe someone will be killed or seriously injured before they take notice. It’s beyond danger. Deerkpark doesn't seem to control it, saying there’s nothing you can do about it. State police do nothing either."
How to respond?Among measures suggested at the workshop were taking decibel counts of the noise and enforcing speed limits, but nobody wants to see motor bikes banned from the road. “I see regular biker groups pass through, and there’s noise, but I can laugh about it, and say, they’re out having a good time,” Dotey remarked. Installing speed bumps, as a resident suggested, would create a hazard. Besides reducing the speed limit, another option could be staging a police car there to serve as a deterrent, though there is the possibility that an empty car could be vandalized or damaged. Another possibility is a camera could be posted to record license plates and issue warnings.
“One particular motorcycle was counted driving through 18 times in a row. This often occurs during weekday evenings, leading to the impression that it’s local people, but it’s also a big issue during summer, sometimes until 11 at night,” Dotey said, according to workshop notes.
“Police should take some kind of action to try to stop it, including heavy fines. Just find who the culprits are, and bring them off the road,” he said.