FORT RUCKER, Ala. -- With more than 60,000 acres of training area on Fort Rucker, officials want to remind people not to stray off the beaten path when it comes to recreation.

From Lake Tholocco's West Beach, the Beaver Lake trails, disc golf course and tracks at the physical fitness facilities, the installation has an abundance of areas for recreation, but training areas are strictly prohibited to civilians and unauthorized personnel, said Sean Sparks, interim deputy to the garrison commander.

"People using these areas without proper approval not only put their personal safety at risk, but also could be prosecuted," he said.

Fort Rucker 385-1, Range and Training Area Regulation, states that entry into or use of any range, training area, or impact area for any reason must be approved in advance by the chief of the training division, or a designated representative.

The installation limits running, jogging, biking, swimming, walking and picnics to authorized areas to protect the civilian populace, versus allowing anyone to use a training area for any type activity, said Sparks.

"Our primary effort, from a training division perspective, is to prevent this type of activity from disrupting training units in the field," he said. "There are many risks people are exposing themselves to by wandering off through the woods on post."

Sparks said that people need to familiarize themselves with the regulations and the policies that are set for their protection.

U.S. Army Aviation Center of Excellence Regulation 600-1 lists off-limits areas as ranges, designated training areas, storage buildings, non-lighted areas during hours of darkness (except fishing ponds and Lake Tholocco for fishing only), vacant and unused structures, the Lemon Lot after 10 p.m., and all airfields, stage fields or other facilities used for aircraft landing, refueling, storage or maintenance.

Unauthorized entry into these off-limits areas is prohibited, reads the regulation.

"Some of the most troublesome areas are the wooded areas," he said. "Many people may look at the thousands of acres we have and think they are a nice place to go for a walk with the dog, but most of those areas are designated as training areas and are off limits.

FR 215-1 also states that horseback riding is restricted to approved established trails only -- free riding throughout training areas is not authorized. It continues to say that all walking, jogging, running, and hiking trails and courses are open only from sunrise to sunset, unless the trail or course is appropriately illuminated by fixed utilities.

Besides training Soldiers for the Army's many missions, other activities occur within these training areas. Timber harvest, controlled burns, spraying of pesticide, hunting and trapping are all activities commonly taking place in the woods.

"Maintenance functions could seriously injure someone who may be conducting recreational type activities in an unauthorized area," he said. "Environmental, natural resources and the Directorate of Public Works activities all occur on these lands, too."

There is also the potential for people to detonate unexploded ordnance from the 1940s, added Sparks.

If a person is not sure if they are allowed in the area, then that person probably is not supposed to be there, he said. It's safest to stay in the areas that are designated for recreational usage.

"There are appropriate places where people can conduct recreational fitness and activities," said Sparks. "Fort Rucker does an excellent job in providing many areas. People shouldn't put their lives at risk to find a new trail to run on where they don't have to be around others."

On many training boundaries, there are sequence numbers on a tree or a sign of some type. Sparks said if a person sees one of those, that it is a clear indication that they are going into a restricted area.

"You wouldn't want a horseback rider riding through a paved trail designated for runners only, just like leaders don't want joggers running into a Soldier who is in the field conducting training," he said.

For more information, read Fort Rucker Regulation 215-1, located in the policies and regulations section on the Fort Rucker Intranet or visit administrative services in Bldg. 5700.