2017-08-12 / Front Page

ATV expansion: battle lines drawn

Battle lines have been drawn in Cameron County between supporters of a movement to open more areas for all-terrain vehicles and members of a new organization who oppose the move.

Opponents to expanded riding options on public property cite potential environmental damage, public safety hazards and a disruption to the county’s traditional peace and tranquility.

About 70 residents and seasonal visitors attended a public forum on the issue last week at Cameron County High School. The session was sponsored by the new Residents for Protecting Cameron County Wilds, in response to calls to establish an ATV trail system linked to a broader regional network.

Steve VanEerden and Randy Flament are chairing the fledgling organization.

“Our goal is to provide alternatives to attracting tourism and economic growth that don’t include opening more ATV roads,” VanEerden explained. “People love the peace and quiet we offer here and that would be compromised if these roads are opened.”

He suggested that the tourist economy be pegged to assets such as the state forest and game lands, state parks, and “virtually unlimited opportunities for low-impact outdoor activities such as hunting, fishing, wildlife watching, birding, hiking, backpacking, canoeing, orienteering, geocaching and mountain biking.”

VanEerden’s vision was in sharp contrast to the scenario presented several months ago by the Cameron County ATV/UTV Assn. That group is seeking approval for use of township and state roads and trails to link communities in Cameron, Clinton and Potter counties, supporting businesses such as restaurants, lodging facilities, fuel distributors and others.

Flament said the forecasts are unrealistic: “We’re not a tourist-based economy. Our biggest employers are powdered metal, lumber, and the government, and they won’t be helped by any of this.”

Wayne Johnson of Driftwood also questioned the economic projections.

“What’s the cost going to be for dealing with the people who break the law and cause problems?” he inquired. “How will that be figured into the total equation? Who is going to be responsible for stepping up enforcement and repairing damages.”

Elk State District Forester Jeanne Wambaugh confirmed that enforcement is an ongoing issue with ATV riders and cautioned that opening more roads would likely exacerbate the situation.

“Ninety-nine percent of the time, we aren’t able to catch the people responsible for causing problems, so we don’t recoup costs through fines or restitution,” Wambaugh said.

Wayne Hunt, conservation officer with the Pa. Game Commission, echoed those comments.

“When people obey the law that’s fine, but that’s not typically what I’ve seen,” he said. “The people of Cameron County are going to have a big decision to make and soon.”

A majority of those attending last week’s meeting were opponents, but some, such as Grove Township Supervisor Walt Sipe, spoke out in favor of expanded ATV access to public roads and trails.

“We need to do something,” Sipe asserted. “Hunting and fishing used to be big attractions but that’s been gone for years. Something has to be done to bring money here. People need to open their minds.”

Also answering questions from the audience were Cameron County District Attorney Jeanne Miglicio, Seneca Resources representative Tom Holt, forester Dave Plessinger, and Pa. State Police representatives Eric McKean, Dave Surra and Chris Bock.

Return to top