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Group decides to test 'precedent' set by Stiles

"The question is does the law not apply to a privileged few, or does it apply to all," Aubin asked.

Aubin said what Stiles did was wrong and said it was even more wrong to sweep it under the rug. He said the DEC's decision not to ticket Stiles based on the fact other motorists can drive through the gate at Lake Lila because they own land on the other side was flawed.

"He wasn't trying to access private land," Aubin said. "He was using that right-of-way to access state land, so he was trespassing on state land."

Aubin said his group tried to find a gate with nearly the same set of circumstances as Stiles had at Lake Lila, but said they had difficulty "locating a key under rocks near the gates they encountered" and said they wanted to respect the wishes of private landowners who may have granted a public easement.

In the end, they settled on a dirt road leading to state land off Hardy Road in Wilmington, which was blocked by a cable but had no lock. As was the case with Stiles, there were no signs saying motorists could not proceed nor any no trespassing signs, Aubin said.

"We were simply celebrating Curt Stiles' victory," Aubin said. "It was all right for Curt Stiles, so it must be okay for the rest of us."

The question I raised in my last column remains: Does this set a precedent for the issuance of tickets in future cases where people decide to open a locked state gate to access public lands?

Keith McKeever, a spokesman for the APA, said no - at least in this instance.

"I can't say it was precedent-setting," McKeever said. "These guys were on state forest preserve land where no motorized vehicles are allowed. I see that as very different."

McKeever said it will be up to the DEC to determine if the group should be prosecuted.

Before the forest rangers took their leave, Aubin and his group were told the state has a year to issue tickets in the case.

"Does that mean you have a year to issue Curt Stiles a ticket," Aubin asked.

The answer was yes.

John Gereau is managing editor of Denton Publications and an avid outdoorsman. He can be reached at johng@denpubs.com

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