The New York State Snowmobile Association says the Adirondack Council's lawsuit to overturn recently adopted snowmobile trail guidelines jeopardizes the safety of snowmobilers.
"The improvements that are needed on trails to make them safe and passable just won't be done," said NYSSA Executive Director Dave Perkins. "Our concern is on safety on these trails. These improvements are changes that will be made to make them safer and just wouldn't happen because everything will just stay at a standstill."
The Adirondack Council filed an Article 78 lawsuit against three state agencies on Jan. 11 in state Supreme Court in Albany, claiming the Adirondack Park Forest Preserve's snowmobile trail management plan, adopted by the state Adirondack Park Agency in November, violates the State Land Master Plan. The lawsuit is directed at the APA, the Department of Environmental Conservation and the Office of Parks and Recreation and Historic Preservation.
Snowmobilers say that using tracked groomers on trails make them safe, but the Adirondack Council claims they aren’t allowed on the state Forest Preserve.
(Enterprise photo — Mike Lynch)
The snowmobile plan is intended to improve the safety of snowmobilers while lessening the environmental impact during the process of constructing, maintaining and locating trails. The snowmobile trail plan was based on a parkwide snowmobile plan adopted in 2007.
The Council claims that the recent trail plan would not be consistent with the State Land Master Plan.
It is against widening community connector trails from 8 to 9 feet on straightaways and 12 feet around curves. They are also against the use of motorized, tracked groomers on the Forest Preserve that would be allowed, under permit, on community connector trails.
The organization also objects to the definition of the words "adjacent" and "periphery." The plan says "adjacent" can mean up to 1 mile and "periphery" can mean up to 2 miles. The words are used in the siting of snowmobile trails on state land classified as wild forest, where some motorized vehicles are allowed. The Council claims these definitions would result in trails in interior sections of forests.
"It's easy to say that a trail is going to be next to a road, but in some cases the terrain just won't allow that," Perkins said. "I think that the APA and DEC's first effort is to keep the motorized route as close to the road as possible, but if it's not possible, there needs to be some flexibility."
Perkins and snowmobilers have worked with the APA and DEC in recent years to make changes to the trail system with the intention that those changes would be implemented to snowmobile trails in upcoming unit management plans, including that of the Jessup River Wild Forest, a UMP that is scheduled to be amended in the upcoming year. The Jessup River plan was originally held up by a similar lawsuit from environmental organizations several years ago.
"Most UMPs have been held from consideration for years until the APA could rule on specific snowmobile provisions," Perkins said in a press release. "Now, as a result of this lawsuit, these UMPs may be back on the shelf."
Snowmobilers have maintained that not being able to use tracked groomers would make trails less safe, in particular on curves. Perkins said curves become banked after use and need to be flattened to make for safer riding.
"A snowmobile pulling a drag cannot bring those banks down and flatten those curves out," Perkins said. "Even part of the instruction in the (Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation) operator and safety course is to flatten these curves out so that it brings speed down."
Contact Mike Lynch at 891-2600 ext. 28 or firstname.lastname@example.org.