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.