A Co Antrim resident has called on people involved in anti-social behaviour and illegal scrambler use at Carnmoney Hill to stop.
The man, who wishes to remain anonymous, contacted the Newtownabbey Times to voice concerns about the issue.
He said: “Carnmoney Hill is being plagued by illegal scrambler use, with the problem getting worse during the recent spell of good weather.
“On average there are at least four bikes there per day at a single time. They can be there from as early as 9am and often stay until late in the evening.”
The man said that not only are the bikes a danger to pedestrians and other hill users, but many of the young people riding scramblers in the area are not wearing helmets.
Calling on parents to consider the consequences before they purchase scramblers for their children without having a track available, he said: “It’s time for a wake up call. Parents need to be aware of the damage their children could do to others and maybe to themselves if the child ends up in hospital, or even dies.”
The resident stated that anti-social behaviour has also increased in the area, with underage drinking and arson attacks on the gorse taking place.
He added: “My home is close to the hill and I’m concerned that if a fire was to take hold, my house and neighbouring properties could be damaged.”
Commenting on the issue, a spokesperson for Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Council said: “The council is aware of scrambler use and anti-social behaviour on Carnmoney Hill.
“The council has no powers with regard to illegal scramblers however, it reports any incidents to the PSNI.
“The council has been working with the Woodland Trust and PSNI over the last few years to try and reduce the problem. These efforts have included signage and leaflet drops to encourage people to report any incidents to the PSNI.”
The spokesperson added: “Our Park Wardens and Enforcement Officers are also aware of the issue and continue to work with the Woodland Trust on reporting and sharing information.
“We would advise the public to deter from using scramblers on Carnmoney Hill and if anyone witnesses scramblers on Carnmoney Hill, contact the PSNI via 101 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555111.”
The Woodland Trust is also aware of the anti-social issues at the site.
A spokesperson for the trust said: “Carnmoney Hill is a well-loved Local Nature Reserve, enjoyed by many. Unfortunately, the tranquil picture is being marred by scrambler use and we’re appealing to those concerned to see reason.
“This is an illegal activity. It’s causing damage to the woodland and paths and, moreover, presenting a genuine threat to the safety of people. That includes the riders themselves and those who love to walk here.
“We’re appealing to local residents and visitors to report sightings of scramblers on the hill immediately to the police by calling 101.”
The Woodland Trust also confirmed that it was aware of a number of fires across the Belfast Hills.
The spokesperson continued: “It’s truly disturbing to hear reports of fires started deliberately across the hills. They can cause huge damage to the fragile ecosystem – damage to the soil, plants, and trees and, of course, many precious and vulnerable species of wildlife.
“Such actions put human lives at risk, too. I’d ask anyone wishing to show-off in front of friends to stop and think about the devastating, and potentially irreparable, consequences.”
The Trust said that in recent years, thanks to funding and partnerships, various work had been carried out at the hill, including improved access and pathways.
The spokesperson added: “This is a much-loved natural resource, enjoyed by local people and visitors, and we don’t want the actions of just a few to spoil the efforts of many. We’re appealing to members of the public to report sightings of any anti-social behaviour immediately.
“There are many opportunities for young people to volunteer on the hill – with ourselves, community associations and the Belfast Hills Partnership.
“Volunteering encourages a sense of ownership and respect for the hill. It also helps people to acquire new skills and knowledge.”