2018-10-06 / Front Page

Future of ATV use topic of Oct. 15 meeting

A ll-terrain vehicle riding is rising in popularity across the region.

And despite concerns about the environmental impact and potential conflicts with other forms of outdoor recreation, there is a concerted effort underway to support the hobby through trail development and regional tourist promotion.

A meeting on the Northcentral ATV Initiative being pushed by the state legislature and related topics will be held at 10 am Monday, Oct. 15, at the Gunzburger Building in Coudersport. It’s being hosted by the Potter County Planning Department.

Among participants will be representatives of PennDOT, the Pa. Dept. of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR), police, emergency services, conservation interests, ATV rider organizations, tourist promotion agencies, county and local government, and others.

More information is available from Potter County Planning Director Will Hunt at 274-8254.

For decades, riders of all-terrain vehicles have been pressuring state leaders to open up additional sections of publicly owned forest, park and game lands for their use.

ATV partisans scored a major victory recently when the state legislature amended the Fiscal Code with an order that directs two state agencies to work together to expand the trail system in northcentral Pennsylvania.

Politicizing that document is nothing new, but holding DCNR hostage is a new twist. In order to draw down its operating revenue from the state, DCNR is now required to work with PennDOT to help develop and implement the “Northcentral Pennsylvania ATV Initiative,” connecting Clinton County to the New York State border through state forest land and highways by April 2024.

This network would link several trails that are already developed in different regions between the counties. Those trails are Haneyville, Bloody Skillet, Snowshoe Rail Trail, Denton Hill and Whiskey Springs.

Two of those trails -- the Whiskey Springs and Bloody Skillet ATV trails – must be connected by April 1, 2020.

Susquehannock District Forester Chris Nicholas said his agency is working on the plan. “It’s very early, but we’ve already started looking at options to comply by the 2024 deadline,” he explained. “There are a whole lot of things that will have to come together.”

Nicholas said he envisions state land being used for “connector trails” that link state and municipal roadways.

“Safety and sustainability are our main concerns,” Nicholas said. “There’s no doubt ATVs can cause damage to roads and trail systems. We’ll be looking at those kinds of things.”

Among the issues of concern is the long-term maintenance of the trails, which will take a considerable amount of money and manpower. Potter County’s 250-mile snowmobile trail, for example, is maintained through an agreement with DCNR and the three major snowmobiling clubs. Trails with ATV use will likely need more intense maintenance.

But most DCNR officials believe it’s worth the effort. In addition to boosting outdoor recreation and local tourism, official trails would likely curtail illegal riding on state roads and forests.

Small businesses, particularly pubs, eateries and fueling stations, have been pushing for expanded riding opportunities. Opponents cite traffic concerns on these “dual use” municipal roadways, as well as erosion issues that will likely occur on trails through forested land.

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