The outdoor office: Pennington County Sheriff UTV Patrol an important asset for keeping the forest safe for everyone
HILL CITY, S.D. – Outdoor enthusiasts take advantage of the multitude of activities offered West River at every chance they get. And with a backyard like the Black Hills, the possibilities are almost endless.
However even in the Hills, law enforcement works to make sure that everyone is having a safe and fun time.
On China Gulch Road just outside of Hill City, Pennington County Sheriff Deputies Mossman, McKelvey, and Spence were on the job.
“People just assume they are out in nature, they are out in the Hills. They do not think that there is any law enforcement out here,” Deputy Skye McKelvey said. “But this is part of the county, so we try to make sure to get out here.”
During the summer months, typically May through September, a crew of usually around two deputies will be out patrolling the Black Hills every weekend.
According to Deputy Mossman, some of the biggest problems they encounter are related to people not following safety measures.
“People not having the right safety equipment, not having eye protection, kids not wearing helmets, that kind of stuff,” he explains. “Or people driving off-road. You have to stay on marked trails and marked roads.”
According to laws pertaining to UTV usage, all riders must have a helmet on and eye gear. Especially drivers, as dirt and other materials can get into their eyes and risk the chance of obscuring vision and placing passengers in danger.
As for people who think their vehicles are able to handle the terrain off-trail, unknown and unseen hazards such and dips and even cliffs can create dangerous situations that may prove difficult for first responders to access.
If someone is in a dangerous situation with little to no cell phone service, Deputy McKelvey recommends having an app on your phone before an excursion to identify your location for better assistance when contacting dispatch.
But above all, the sheriff’s office reminds residents and visitors that patrols like this are not meant to ruin the excitement of riding around the trails.
“We are not here to be sticklers on people having fun,” Deputy Spence said. “We are just here to make sure you are doing it safe.”