Friday, April 13, 2012

Lewis County Ignores Critics of SNIRT ATV Rally

The Annual SNIRT (Snow/Dirt) ATV Rally will be held as planned on Saturday in Lewis County, despite efforts by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) and the Adirondack Council to rein in the event’s widely publicized excesses.

In a letter to Lewis County Board of Legislators, the Adirondack Council protested their refusal to conduct an environmental review before the event and the opening of roads leading into the the Southwest part of the Adirondack Park in Lewis County (the Eastern side of the Tug Hill Plateau) to ATVs.

“The Adirondack Council reiterates that it does not wish for the SNIRT Run to come to an end,” the Council’s letter also says. “However, unless Lewis County officials make a serious effort to mitigate the event’s extreme environmental impacts, and to crack down on the illegal activity, we will be forced to consider legal action. You may recall that the Council recently won a lawsuit against Lewis County for its failure to complete a formal environmental review for ATV trails on county-owned land.”

“We understand and support the County’s desire to boost tourism with recreational vehicle rallies, but strongly believe that state law calls for such events to be carefully planned and strictly supervised to prevent widespread abuses of public and private property left in the wake of eight previous SNIRT events. Your lack of attention to these details encourages a culture of wanton environmental destruction, and at worst, simultaneously promotes drinking and driving, and reckless disregard for public and private property and the well-being of other riders.”

Last year the SNIRT Rally drew fire from DEC for apparent purposeful destruction of wetlands near Otter Creek and Brantingham Lake. In a letter last year by Robert Davies, Director of DEC’s Division of Lands and Forests, the department scolded the event’s organizers for hosting it during mud season, and for past “significant enforcement issues.”

“Based on the projected number of users at this one day event [during mud season], we have determined such intensive use of ATVs cannot be accommodated without significant environmental degradation and damage,” Davies wrote. “While we appreciate the efforts you have made to maintain some control over participants, enforcement personnel have reported considerable problems associated with encroachment/trespass on private and public lands and Vehicle and Traffic Law violations including drinking and driving.” Davies also noted that a map provided participants at last years SNIRT event “erroneously showed state roads open for the event.”

Lewis County legislators opened portions of 12 county roads to ATVs for the last year’s SNIRT rally. Robert C. Diehl, Lewis County’s trail coordinator, and Deputy Michael K. Leviker, the Lewis County Sheriff’s Department’s parks and recreation officer, both told the Watertown Daily Times at the time that the event included at least 3,000 riders. “Many of whom did not register for the event,” the Watertown daily reported. At least three accidents were reported at last year’s rally, including one in which a woman was taken by Lewis County Search and Rescue to Lewis County General Hospital for treatment of leg and shoulder injuries.

Controversy escalated after videos of the rally surfaced on YouTube. In comments posted on one YouTube video from the 2011 event, one rider brags about trying to outrun law enforcement officials. “thought we could out run em. was headed for the trail (almost made it) and got blocked right in front of Tug Hill Inn Hook & Ladder. coulda went around but they had us,” the video’s poster claims, noting that “they hooked us up and we only got one [ticket] each for reckless operation.” Additional videos from last year’s event are posted here.

The event has grown considerably in recent years from from 1,660 registered users in 2009 to 2,283 registered riders in 2010. Although registrations dipped slightly in 2011, the number actual participants increased. The Watertown Daily News is reporting that local accommodations are booked solid and campers are expected for this year’s event. Proceeds from ticket sales are expected to be used to maintain and improve the Tug Hill’s 103-mile trail system.

This year will be the first time the event received corporate sponsorship. Bombardier Recreational Products donated a 2012 Can Am 650 Outlander XT all-terrain vehicle valued at $10,000.

With more than nearly 48 miles of trails, Lewis County is the leader of establishing ATV trails in New York State. The county budgeted $140,000 in 2008 and 2009 to build and maintain ATV trails, the amount budgeted for 2011 is $88,500. The cost of the yearly permit to use the Lewis County ATV Trail System is $80, $40 for members of clubs belonging to the Tug Hill Adirondack ATV Association. [Source: Adirondack Daily Enterprise]

Photos: 1) An ATV user rides through a posted wetland in 2010; 2) ATV riders on a Lewis County road in 2010; 3) A Lewis County Sheriff’s Department officer stops an ATV rider at a roadblock in 2011; 4) An ATV rider tips over in a posted wetland in 2010.

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John Warren

John Warren has been exploring the woods and waters of the Adirondacks for almost 50 years. After a career as a print journalist and documentary television producer he founded Adirondack Almanack in 2005 and co-founded the geolocation services company Adirondack Atlas in 2015.

John remains active in traditional media. His Adirondack Outdoors Conditions Report can be heard Friday mornings across the region on the stations of North Country Public Radio and on 93.3 / 102.1 The Mix. Since 2008, John has been a media specialist on the staff of the New York State Writers Institute.

John is also a professional researcher and historian with a M.A. in Public History. He edits The New York History Blog and is the author of two books of regional history. As a Grant Consultant for the William G. Pomeroy Foundation, he has reviewed hundreds of historic roadside marker grant applications from around New York State for historical accuracy.

10 Responses

  1. Pete Klein says:

    Is this rally the reason why I saw a lot of trailers with ATVs heading north from Warrensburg on Rt. 28 yesterday?
    It always amazes me how in these so called tough economic times people have money to spend on toys and gas for their toys.

  2. Paul says:

    Pete, these are probably some of our “stimulus” dollars hard at work!

  3. Pete Klein says:

    Paul, I rode an ATV once and didn’t like it. Thought they were dangerous.
    This weekend, I took a hike.
    How can anyone claim they like being outdoors with all that noise?

  4. Paul says:

    I rode one once. Someone who had one was helping me get a deer out of the woods. That was great. Otherwise I have never been on one myself.

    The Council is in a great position here. They know if there is a “review” they will get shut down. So you can say you are all for it as long as it gets reviewed and cancelled.

    Of course they want this “to come to an end”. Why wouldn’t they? Lets be honest here.

  5. John Warren says:


    You have no evidence that the Adirondack Council wants this to be shut down. In fact, they have stated exactly the opposite.

    The main beef here is that they opened roads leading into the park and there has been a history of wanton abuse of rules.

    Your comment seems to me to be nothing more than attempting to demonize your political enemies.

  6. Paul says:

    “political enemies”? That is a good one. Despite what they say I seriously doubt that they support an event like this. But you are correct they do pay it lip service, so maybe they do.

    I think they should not. I don’t know how you can have a mission like theirs and support an event like this?

    But yes maybe they do.

  7. Paul says:

    John, The Council specifically supports a ban on all ATVs in the Forest Preserve (look at their website). How can they also support a “rally” that has the things running all over roads on FP land? Like I said I think the former is not a bad policy but to support both seems like double speak.

    How do you see it otherwise?

  8. Bruce says:

    Hey, you guys. We all know money makes things work and it doesn’t matter where you are.
    We all know that if you want something DONE or NOT DONE all it takes is enough money in the right place.
    If you want 150 acres of “Forever Wild” land for which you will have no problem obtaining building permits to put your $800,000.00 “camp” right next to a protected stream all you have to do is contribute an “appropriate” gift to the right PAC.
    If you DO WANT ATVs or UTVs to have the same status as sno-mobiles (proper trails and $ coming in to otherwise poverty stricken areas) all you have to do is “scratch the right back” and it will mysteriously happen.
    If you don’t believe this happens,well then, I really don’t know what to say other than, “I have some nice waterfront property in Death Valley I’d Like to sell to you.” (You’ll have to finance the Environmental Impact Study for the dock)

    • John Warren John Warren says:


      “If you want 150 acres of “Forever Wild” land for which you will have no problem obtaining building permits to put your $800,000.00 “camp” right next to a protected stream all you have to do is contribute an “appropriate” gift to the right PAC.”

      We’d love to write about that here at the Almanack – do you have any proof?

      John Warren

  9. jake newman says:

    I think this is a direct contributor of my neighbors running an un-mufflered atv at all hours. I get up for work at 0400, my neighbors don’t work. This means they could care less about noise or time. I have nothing against atvs operated according to state and local laws.

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