MADISON COUNTY, Ala. – The Madison County Sheriff's Office is preparing for an Easter ritual that has nothing to do with egg hunts, chocolate bunnies or church. Law enforcement is cracking down on the traditional Easter Ride that has become a much anticipated event in Northeast Madison County.
For the last 15 years hundreds of people in north Alabama have spent their Easter weekends on an off road thrill.
"ATV’s, rock crawlers, Polaris, side-by-side, 4-wheelers and motorcycles; they all go to this area," explains Lt. Donny Shaw with the Madison County Sheriff's Office.
People get on the vehicle of their choice and ride out to Bingham, Coal Mine and Bice Mountains in northeast Madison County. Those areas are the hot spots. People gather underneath the TVA power lines. And while this may be fun for the off road enthusiast, this is private property. The gathering has no medical standby and over the years some people took advantage in a big way.
"Some of the people were causing damage in the area,” explained Lt. Shaw. “they were breaking into some of the cabins and taking items out of the cabins. There was even an accidental death of a young person and there had been a shooting."
By 2013 nearly 1,000 people attended the Easter Ride. That's when property owners got together and alerted the Madison County Sheriff’s they needed their assistance. Since that time, law enforcement has made their presence known in the area.
One long time property owner opened up about the issues spiraling from the event, he wanted to remain anonymous.
"Pretty much everything that can be toted off has been stolen at one time or another," said the concerned owner. “I have seen an ATV flip completely over. The people inside didn’t have any safety measures and if there had been a sharp rock or stick, they could have died.”
While the TVA owns the power lines, the land belongs to property owners.
"If someone is injured up there we could be held responsible," added the property owner.
It’s a reality that haunts property owners and law enforcement on Easter weekend.
"We'd rather you go to a place and have a good time where it's welcome," said Lt. Shaw.
Madison County Sheriff’s Office will patrol in the Bingham area all weekend.
There is a sponsored and insured Easter Ride happening this year at Hale Mountain OHV Park in New Market.