The DEC administratively executed a blanket closure of roads almost a week ago, precisely one day after the SNIRT ride that attracted 1400 riders to this area from a variety of states in the northeast. The economic impact of that ride was in the hundreds of thousands of dollars for area businesses. The length of stay in the area for the riders surveyed averaged approximately 2 days. The exposure of the outdoor activity in this region was tremendous and riders were said to be enthusiastic about a return visit, but the calls have been flooding representatives since the closure and people are not likely to return soon.
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The DEC is claiming that the use of these truck trails or “administrative roads” by ATVs is a violation (key word) of the V & T law thus their basis for closure. If that is the case, then the DEC will have to consider these roads as public highways and maintain them as such, by either the DEC or more likely the DOT, to certain standards. The other big question is; if they are public roads who owns the roads, DEC or local towns, and this will determine who has the right to open or close them under the law.
Section 2405 (1) reads:
- Highways. Except with respect to interstate highways or controlled access highways, the department of transportation with respect to state highways, maintained by the state and any other governmental agency with to highways, thereof as open for travel by ATVs when in the determination of the governmental agency concerned, it is otherwise impossible for ATVs to gain access to areas or trails adjacent to the highway. Such designations by a state agency shall be by rule or regulation, and such designations by any municipality other than a state agency shall be by local law or ordinance. including bridge and culvert crossings, under its jurisdiction may designate and post any such public highway or portion
If the DEC wants to avoid considering them as public roads and continue to call them “administrative access roads” that is their choice, BUT closure is NOT due a violation of the V & T law. This section of the V & T law simply allows DEC to make that decision and it leaves the decision strictly up to DEC and for them to accept the responsibility with no one to blame.
- Public lands other than highways. A governmental agency other than a municipality, by regulation or order, and a municipality, by ordinance or local law, may designate any appropriate public lands, waters and properties other than highways under its jurisdiction as a place open for travel by ATVs upon written request for such designation by any person, and may impose restrictions and conditions for the regulation and safe operation of ATVs on such public property, such as travel on designated trails and hours of operation. In addition, thereto, such agency or municipality may not require the operator of an ATV to possess a motor vehicle operator's license. A municipality may charge a fee for use of ATVs on such public lands.
The DEC Regional Director was reportedly upset about a meeting with area trail coordinators being reported in the Watertown Daily Times. The DEC needs full disclosure for the correct basis of their decision and needs to accept responsibility for the actions.