Sun, 03 Sep 2006

ATV trails in New York State

In order to understand the ATV issue, you have to keep two points in mind: first, that because ATVs destroy the trails they ride on, nobody wants to share trails with them. Second, that because ATVers have been paying into a dedicated trail fund, they deserve their own trails.

There should be no question that ATVs destroy their trails. I like to ride my mountain bike on old railroad beds. Both the Rutland Trail (Norwood and eastward) and the Rivergate Trail (Philadelphia and north and west) have some places which ATVs have turned into mudpits. I haven't heard any ATV riders admit to this, but the evidence is right there. Just ride along these trails and you'll see for yourself.

When ATVs have dedicated trails with a management plan, this isn't a big problem. The Rivergate Trail is managed by the Rivergate Wheelers ATV club. They have purchased fill, and rented equipment to position it. They have repaired and replaced bridges. The Tri-Town ATV club is newer, not as well organized, and the Rutland Trail shows it. Both these clubs are voluntary organizations, which is great! But the ability of these clubs to generate funding is suppressed by the ATV trail portion of the state ATV registration fee.

When ATVs ride off their own trails, they create problems. Landowners really resent it when they see their trails rutted by ATV wheels. Snowmobilers have many trails on private property, whose owners' permission they have because they ride on snow, and don't harm the trail. Hikers burst a vein if they're hiking along a trail, and ATV riders come blasting down the trail, making noise and leaving behind an exhaust smell. Mountain bikers don't want to have to ride through the trail mudholes that ATVs create. Their sense of being in the wilderness is dashed by the presence of a motor vehicle. Both of these groups are harmed by ATV travel on multi-use trails, and yet they have no negative effects on ATV travel.

There's public funding available for multi-use trails. This is not a solution for ATV riders because of the trail damage. Multi-use means horse riders, who require special bridges so as not to scare the horses. Multi-use means walkers, who travel at a vastly different speed than ATVs. Multi-use means bicyclists, who require a firm surface, not a mudhole. Mixing these uses is just asking for an accident. Nonetheless the Rutland Trail is receiving multi-use funding this year. I count that as a good thing.

The solution to make peace with the ATV issue is for the state to put back the funding it stole from the ATV trail budget. Use that money already paid by ATV riders to start working on trails. Use the new, higher trail fee added on ATV registrations to create new trails.

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