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Proposal Considering New ATV Trails, Connectors on State Forest Land Receiving Local Support

Sunday, January 26, 2020 @ 12:01 AM

Posted by Aly Delp

atvs-2751246_1280CLARION, Pa. (EYT) – Changes proposed by the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) that could allow new ATV trails and connectors on state forest lands are receiving an abundance of support in the local region.

The proposed changes to DCNR internal policy on ATV trails on state forest lands include revisions to authorize the DCNR to consider new ATV trails and connectors on state forest lands.

John Straitiff, Executive Director of the Pennsylvania Great Outdoors Visitors Bureau, told this could be a preliminary step toward something that could make a big difference for tourism in Pennsylvania.

“A big part of the tourism push for the future is opening that up,” Straitiff said.

“Yes, we have tons of hiking trails and water trails, but other than the Allegheny National Forest, there’s a lack of motorized-use trails to ride in the region and across the state.”

According to Straitiff, he’s heard a lot of support for the idea from across the state.

“It’s a linchpin to improving tourism in the future. Just look at the Hatfield McCoy Trail. We’d like to see Pennsylvania use that as a model to increase our tourism.”

Ken Shaffer, President of the Piney Rail Riders, brought up the same point.

“Neighboring states, like West Virginia, have seen a boost to local economies because of promoting ATV riding in their state. The Hatfield McCoy trails in West Virginia is an example of how once struggling communities have experienced a renaissance of small-town economies. With many industries leaving rural Pennsylvania, the promotion of ATV trails could offer great economic opportunity for local and rural communities.”

According to Piney Rail Riders Vice President Jeremy Greenawalt, their organization already includes members from counties all over western Pennsylvania, and even some from surrounding states and an increase in trails for them to ride would benefit everyone.

“Pennsylvania would be able to prosper and gain lots of revenue if they would take a look at other states and follow what they do. In 2019 alone, West Virginia had $160 million in revenue from the riding tourism there.”

Shaffer also pointed out that some communities in our region have already taken the initiative to benefit from the ATV community.

“Many local fire halls benefit from poker runs, which are held in conjunction with landowners who support these poker runs as a means to raise funds for their cause. The Redbank Valley Poker Run held annually for the past 20 years, raises funds for the Redbank Valley Municipal Park. This annual event brings in over 1000 riders for the one-day event. The event, which is organized by volunteers, and generates revenue for the park in the form of registration, food sales, and camping fees.”

He also noted ATV riders help support local communities in other ways, as well.

“Two other examples of events that ATV enthusiasts participate in would be benefit rides for community projects and events that raise money for families in need.”

Many other local residents in our area also support the proposal.

“I support it. We already pay registration and insurance. But all they do is keep building more bike trails. Seriously, how many miles of bike trails do you need? It would also bring in money to the communities that have them. People would come from other areas to ride. Like at Hatfield-McCoys and Marienville,” Thomas Morrow said.

Others suggested the kind of partnerships that have been utilized in some other states.

“We need a public-private partnership like the Hatfield McCoy trails. It generates well over 20 million a year in economic impact. And were busy spending millions on nonmotorized trails that return penny’s on the dollar at best,” John Ammon added.

Still, others noted that while other outdoor activities have increased, ATV riding has been left behind.

“They catered to the cyclists and walkers with the bike trail now let’s give others some fun,” Fredi Starr noted.

While the support in our area is strong, there are those with concerns, as well.

“(Do) you mean like Marienville, Pa., where the trails are only open three months out of the year? Pointless. Pay out the wazoo for trail passes, parking permit, and mandatory insurance just for three months. What you need is a set up like Hatfield McCoy. Open year round, no mandatory registration. Build it and they will come,” Travis Blakeman said.

There are also those who simply don’t support the proposal.

“Sure, why not ruin the property without all the noise pollution kill more natural habitat for wildlife. Why not more hiking trails? Get some exercise,” Sally Coates said.

“Lord, first they tear up the National Forests, now the State Forests, what’s left after that?” Michael Tarr asked.

Overall, while some have issues with the proposal, the support for the measure locally seems to be strong.

“We at Piney Rail Riders hope the DCNR recognizes the growing number of ATV enthusiasts in the state of Pennsylvania,” Shaffer said.

“We feel it is important for DCNR to listen to the voices of all ATV riders and ATV-related organizations during this open discussion and comment period. We hope that these comments and suggestions will help bring about purposed changes to the internal policy on ATV trails in Pennsylvania.”

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