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Response to Adirondack Council’s position on ATVs

In the Oct. 8, 2019, Adirondack Daily Enterprise article, “Council sues over ATV trail through state land in western Adirondacks,” Adirondack Council Executive Director Willie Janeway is quoted: “ATVs have their place in this park on private lands, farms, construction sites and logging operations, but as an off-road recreational vehicle, they are in the wrong place on public roads.” In short, the Council is suing the town of Clare in St. Lawrence County over a section of trail that apparently involves state land but not sure why he added “public roads.”

I get the concern over motorized vehicle use on state land. But to go further and expand to include access to all public roads is a gross overstep. ATVs are registered motorized vehicles and legally authorized to operate on designated public roads. ATV advocates are not asking for access to state highways or high traffic corridors where operation is clearly unsafe.

This summer my wife and I spent a delightful day exploring the Grasse River along Tooley Pond Road (this road mentioned in the article) on our two-person ATV. We discovered this through an inquiry to St. Lawrence County Chamber of Commerce, who promoted this area to explore waterfalls. We were able to drive slowly looking for the multiple trailheads and hiking in to see each of the falls. Often we stopped just to admire the view. This was a much better experience than it would have been in our car. There was no conflict with car traffic and other ATVs were operating in a courteous and respectful manner. We even got up to 25 mph a couple times. Woo-hoo!

Researching this issue further, I looked at the Adirondack Council website an found this in their “2018-2019 Accomplishments” page: “Published a report on all-terrain vehicles (ATVs) making the case for new state actions to protect the Forest Preserve from ATV misuse and make ATV riding safer.” Apparently restricting ATV access to anywhere in the public domain is the real objective but is being spun as making “ATV riding safer.”

This page on their website also states: “With strong partner organizations, collaboration with elected/appointed government officials and citizen participation, the Council successfully advocates for policies and funding that benefit the environment and communities of the Adirondack Park.” Has the Council met with any of the Clare town or St. Lawrence County officials to discuss this matter? Has the Council attempted to meet with ATV clubs or attended county ATV planning meetings? I see no evidence of that on their website or anywhere else. With a staff of 16 and a budget of $1.8 million (according to their website) it would seem like this should be the first avenue to resolve issues before initiating a lawsuit.

I get the concern over misuse of ATVs and the alarming number of tickets issued, reportedly 353 tickets issued in 2017. But I don’t know the breakdown and expect a lot of these are related to unregistered ATVs or riding without helmets. It would be interesting to know how many of these were actually related to misuse of state land. I’m sure there are examples out there of ATVs doing real damage to environmentally sensitive areas and those cases need to be dealt with aggressively. This is as it should be with any misuse of state land, including hikers vandalizing trails, as recently reported in the Adirondack Daily Enterprise.

ATVs are here to stay and deserve a place to ride in the public domain where such operation is safe and environmentally considerate. As an example of their popularity, the Tupper Lake Volunteer Fire Department recently held a fundraiser raffling off, you guessed it, an ATV. Public lands and roads are for use by the public at large. Can’t we just stop with the costly and divisive lawsuits undermining public trust, and find a way to compromise in some fair and equitable way?

Michael Whitney lives in Coreys.