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Aaron Gross

Colonel Aaron Gross

Director, Massachusetts Environmental Police

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Spring is a wonderful time to be outdoors with an abundance of activities to choose from. Whether it be fishing, all-terrain vehicle (ATV) riding, or just taking in the scenery, it can be a fun time of the year.

For your safety, our officers are outdoors each season throughout Massachusetts using four-by-four vehicles, ATVs and snowmobiles to patrol off-road areas, and operating a fleet of more than 50 vessels to patrol coastal and inland waters. MEP officers are empowered to enforce all of Massachusetts’ general laws but focus on laws and regulations related to the protection of the Commonwealth’s natural resources and the safe operation of boats, recreation and snow vehicles.

Year after year, we see tragic boat, snow and recreation vehicle accidents. As Colonel of the Massachusetts Environmental Police – the primary enforcement agency for state recreational vehicles and boating laws – I am urging all operators of these vehicles and vessels to be cautious, obey the law and use common sense while enjoying the warming spring weather.

As recreation vehicles begin to head into the woods and trails, keep in mind the Environmental Police safety guidelines designed to safeguard recreation vehicle users, private property owners, and the state’s natural resources.

Persons under 18 are now required to take an OHV Safety Course and carry the course completion certificate in order to operate a recreation vehicle in Massachusetts.

OHV Safety Course Requirements and Schedule

Here are some safety tips I’d recommend: 

  • Wear a U.S. Dept. of Transportation approved helmet.
  • Ride at reasonable speeds for existing conditions and be especially cautious when operating at night. 
  • Check frozen ponds and rivers before going onto the now thawing ice – be aware of soft spots in places where there are currents or natural springs below the ice, and exercise extra caution when temperatures creep above 32 degrees F. 
  • Dress in layers, including waterproof outerwear.

I also recommend joining an organized club to discover local areas where snowmobiles and ATVs are permitted. Remember, it is illegal to operate a boat, snow or recreation vehicle after consuming alcoholic beverages.

According to Massachusetts Law, snow and recreation vehicle operators must be over 14 years of age. Children between the ages of 10 and 14 can operate while being directly supervised by an adult over the age of 18 when training for or participating in certain events or races. Be aware that state law also requires operators to obtain landowners’ permission before riding on private property, and prohibits operation of ATVs and snowmobiles on public roads or within 150 feet of a home.

Like all outdoor enthusiasts, I urge recreational vehicle operators to respect the state’s natural resources by taking care to avoid damaging trees, underbrush and other landscape features.

Again, I encourage you to enjoy the wonders of nature at its best, be safe.

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