As temperatures rise and the chance of just one more snow becomes less likely, warm weather adventures begin. For some in the Fort Bragg community, this means bikes, both mountain and dirt, and all-terrain vehicles.
But, officials at Range Control and the Environmental Branch of the Directorate of Public Works implore Fort Bragg residents to adventure in a way that is responsible to both training at Fort Bragg and the management of the heritage and land under their stewardship.
Signs posted around the installation indicate areas are off limits or sensitive to disturbance and rules have been created to protect both land and warm weather adventurers.
Representatives from both Range Operations and Fort Bragg’s Cultural Resource Management Program ask the rules to be followed, and the instructions on sign followed for the common good of the installation.
Anyone with questions or concerns about the recreational use of training areas can find a detailed description of the rule laid out in Army Regulation 350-6, according to John Botello, air traffic control chief and live fire chief, Range Control.
Botello stresses the importance of not driving or parking Privately Owned Vehicles on the ranges.
“The only exception are designated lakes for fishing,” explained Botello.
But the use of POVs is not the only concern that Range Control has with the Fort Bragg community’s adventuring on training grounds.
“There is no out exploring these training areas. They are not recreational areas,” Botello said.
For safety, all activities that occur in training areas are scheduled and monitored. People in places they are not scheduled can be both dangerous and have a negative impact on training.
“These guys come out here with their four-wheelers on the flight landing strips and tear them up,” Botello said. “Because they are nice open areas, they come out here in their trucks and their four-wheelers on the weekends and do donuts and put ruts in the flight strips and now we can’t land aircraft which takes a lot of resources to grade and compact.”
Repairs can take anywhere from weeks to months, and the cost is high.
Military Police and Range Inspectors patrol the training areas, and when trespassers are found MPs issue a citation.
In addition to damage created from ATVs and bikes, Botello explained that illegal dumping is also an issue at Fort Bragg.
People dump everything from refrigerators to bags of garbage on Fort Bragg land.
“A lot of man-hours are spent reporting it trying to get it cleaned up trying to coordinate with the wildlife people; they’re causing environmental damage,” Botello said.
The environmental damage incurred from trespassing and dumping is not limited to the wildlife and vegetation at Fort Bragg.
Fort Bragg is home to an estimated 6,000 archaeological sites, 400 or which are potentially eligible for the National Register of Historic Places and 130 sites that are definitively eligible for the NRHP. These unique and finite cultural resources are also at risk when members of the Fort Bragg community fail to adhere to rules regarding what parts of Fort Bragg are and are not open to the public for recreational purposes.
Dr. Joseph Herbert, an archaeologist with Fort Bragg’s Cultural Resource Management Program, says that even activities that appear to make a small impact archaeological sites impact what archaeologists can learn from a site.
“When those sites are driven through repeatedly, trails are created, and those impact the archaeological deposits in those areas,” said Herbert.
The location of an artifact, depth, and placement in the soil tell archaeologists a great deal about the activities that may have occurred at that site. Most importantly, an artifacts location can indicate the time of an artifacts placement, providing archaeologists with a timeline to connect to the archaeological content excavated from a site.
“When objects are moved around then that muddies that picture,” Herbert said. “Those portions of the site lose their contextual integrity.”
Soil, which may contain artifacts, under the tire tracks of an off-road vehicle can be compressed.
“Putting a vehicle on a site can do a lot of things it can increase the erosion which displaces artifacts, and it can also displace artifacts through compaction,” Herbert said.
Fort Bragg, located in the Sandhills, accumulates soil very slowly.
“Ten centimeters or four inches of dirt typically represents about millennia of time,” explained Herbert.
It is important to note that the disturbance, destruction, and collecting of items from archaeological sites on federal land is a federal offense. Under the Archaeological Resources Protection Act of 1979, Section 6, there is a range of federally prohibited activities, to include, damage and defacement of archaeological sites and material, this includes unpermitted excavation and removal of artifacts.
It is against federal law to ride your ATV or bikes over a site, and it is illegal to use metal detectors at these sites to find artifacts.
For a first-time offender, a felony offense under ARPA incurs fines up to $20,000 and imprisonment for up to one year. Second-time offenders run the risk of being fined 100,000 and spending up to five years in prison.
“We would ask that people not enter these sites. This is their heritage. This is the history of their place. It really adds value to our lives to understand how this place was used in the past, it enriches our sense of the value of the world around us,” according to Herbert.