Traffic backed up on Indiana 44 in Laurel on Saturday before the Franklin County Health Officer ordered Haspin Acres to close for violating the governor’s stay-at-home order. Many of the license plates were from Ohio. DENNIS BROWN / Courtesy The Franklin County Observer
Traffic backed up on Indiana 44 in Laurel on Saturday before the Franklin County Health Officer ordered Haspin Acres to close for violating the governor’s stay-at-home order. Many of the license plates were from Ohio. DENNIS BROWN / Courtesy The Franklin County Observer
LAUREL — Haspin Acres, a recreation area for dune buggies. jeeps, dirt bikes and other off-road vehicles, was ordered closed Saturday by the Franklin County Health Officer.

The privately owned hilly, wooded area had stayed open when many other recreational areas in the state closed because of the Indiana governor’s stay-at-home order.

Franklin County Health Officer Dr. Darrell Brimhall secured an order to close Haspin Acres on Saturday, the Fayette County Sheriff’s office reported. Earlier last week, the sheriff’s office had said it did not have authority to close the private recreation area.

According to Sara Duffy, reporting for the Franklin County Observer, on Saturday, “Trucks coming from Ohio and pulling flatbed trailers with dune buggies and dirt bikes were lined up through Laurel to go to Haspin Acres. Sheriff deputies were dispatched to Laurel to clear the traffic jam and make room for emergency vehicles to reach Laurel, if may be needed.”

Franklin County, where Laurel is located, is under a Level Orange travel restriction for essential travel only, Duffy wrote.

According to a sheriff’s department news release issued Saturday, county officials spent several days researching legal precedent and case law to ensure legal standards were met and followed in securing the order to close.

Franklin County Commissioner Tom Linkel spoke with representatives of Haspin Acres via telephone, according to the news release. Around 11 a.m. on Friday, Linkel spoke with Haspin Acres’ manager, asking cooperation in placing voluntary restrictions on the park. However, the Sheriff’s Department received numerous complaints regarding traffic being backed up in the area of the park.

Duffy reported that on Saturday morning, Franklin County E911 issued a countywide alert after receiving 20 complaints in an hour. The alert said residents could contact the governor’s office if they wanted to file a complaint.

Citing the governor’s Executive Order 20-08, issued March 23, Brimhall found two reasons to order the park closed. He said that Haspin Acres is a prohibited place of outdoor public amusement by the order and that it constitutes a public gathering when it is open for business and allows 10 or more people to congregate on its premises.

Some of Franklin County’s volunteer first responders had filed a complaint last week about Haspin Acres being open.

“The first responders worried that they would be called to Haspin Acres, as has happened in the past, and they would not be available to serve county residents,” Duffy wrote. “First responders indicated that they could be cited for ‘neglect of duty’ if they failed to respond to a call from Haspin Acres.”

On Friday night, a medical helicopter responded to a 1 a.m. call to Haspin Acres. Laurel Volunteer Fire Department responded to set up a landing zone for the helicopter, which had been requested to transport a female who had rolled a jeep.

The governor ordered all non-essential businesses and operations to close from March 25 to April 7. On Friday, the governor extended his order through April 20. The governor has said the order could be extended again depending on the status of the COVID-19 health emergency at that time.

The Connersville News-Examiner tried unsuccessfully to contact Haspin Acres on Monday for comment. A note on the Haspin Acres website stated that the park is now closed. It stated, “We will reopen as soon as the governor lifts the order.”
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