Monday, December 9, 2013

Peter Bauer: Local Activists Hold ATV Laws in Check

Local government leaders in Lewis and St. Lawrence counties have tried for years to rapidly expand the use of public roads and public lands for All Terrain Vehicle (ATV) recreational use. This has been controversial and has resulted in a series of legal challenges. The most recent action was in the Town of Colton, where the Town just announced it plans to withdraw its local ATV law passed in August after a legal challenge by affected property owners was filed.

For more than a decade in the western Adirondacks and Tug Hill, local residents have repeatedly gone to court to stop aggressive local and county governments from illegally opening public roads to ATV riding. These same local governments also seek access to nearby Forest Preserve, state forests and conservation easement lands for ATV use. Three ATV law related lawsuits are currently pending in Lewis County.

Undeterred by his recent setback, the Town Supervisor of Colton stated that he plans to re-file his ATV law soon, once it’s fixed to withstand a legal challenge. This pattern of ATV laws enacted, challenged by local residents, defeated in court, and then re-filed slightly changed has been the norm in Lewis and St. Lawrence counties for over a decade. The ongoing attempts to expand ATV use in the Adirondacks to public roads and public lands merits serious attention.

For many, ATVs are an enjoyable form of recreation. Yet their growing popularity poses significant problems. The environmental damage from ATV use is widely understood. (Protect the Adirondacks recently reissued Rutted and Ruined: ATV Damage on the Adirondack Forest Preserve that was originally published in 2003. The book Thrillcraft: Environmental Consequences of Motorized Recreation also catalogues the many natural resource abuses that ATVs and other off road vehicles can cause.) While most riders are law-abiding citizens, trespassing on private property remains a serious concern.

The sale of ATVs is big business. The Governmental Accountability Office estimated that there were 10.2 million ATVs in operation in U.S. in 2008, up from 3.6 million in 1999. Good stats are hard to come by, but estimates are that there are more than quarter million ATVs in New York. In 2000, over 92,000 were registered, with heavy concentrations in the western Adirondacks and Tug Hill areas.

Many people who purchase ATVs don’t have a suitable place to ride them. The response of ATV enthusiasts to this predicament has been twofold: 1) Many private ATV clubs that sport their own private trail networks have opened over the past 10 years as have private commercial ATV riding parks; 2) Riders pressure local and state officials to open public roads and public lands for riding.

In Colton, the town passed a law last August to open 3 miles of roads to ATVs that would help to make an east-west connection for a regional Franklin-to-Jefferson Counties ATV trail system. Local activists, headed by Mary Jane Watson and others, challenged the law. They argued the Colton law violated the NYS Vehicle and Traffic Law (VTL) and the State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQRA). When Watson and company filed their lawsuit, St. Lawrence County announced it would support the Town of Colton. None of these local residents is an attorney, but Watson and company represented themselves pro se in court as citizen litigants. Watson’s legal challenge benefitted from a rich history of court decisions that have struck down various town and county ATV laws. Ernest Hutchins and other Colton residents successfully defeated a Town of Colton law in 2004.

The VTL permits a municipality to open a road to ATV use under two conditions: 1) When the road opened is near a place where ATV use is legal; 2) Where this area can only be accessed by use of this road. The VTL also views ATVs as motor vehicles used principally for off-highway trails and states they are to be “only incidentally operated on public highways.”

The difficulty with local laws opening roads to ATV use is that they are usually intended to simply provide new places to ride, not to provide access to areas where riding is already legally permissible. The VTL creates a burden of proof for municipalities that the courts are unlikely to ignore. Municipalities have to show that it’s impossible to access the permissible location without utilizing a public road system. This is a tall order. For example, if ATV riders can trailer their ATV and drive to riding area, then why do they need road access?

Three legal challenges helped define this test. Santagate v Franklin County (1999), Hutchins v the Town of Colton (2004), and Brown v. Town of Pitcairn (2003) all successfully challenged town/county ATV laws that failed the VTL tests. The Residents’ Committee to Protect the Adirondacks, one of the organizations that merged to form PROTECT, helped with two of these early cases. (Note that the decisions to all cases mentioned in this article are linked at the end.)

These decisions were also instrumental in the New York Attorney General’s Opinion (2005-21) that detailed the limitations and required findings and steps for local governments when opening public roads to ATVs. These cases and the AG’s Opinion provide a blueprint for citizens to formulate legal challenges.

There are two other legal issues that are important. The State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQRA) requires local government to assess whether laws opening roads to ATV use might result in a significant adverse environmental impact. The other obstacle for municipalities is that they cannot legislate use of state highways in local laws. The recent Town of Colton law included parts of State Route 56.

Lewis County has seen a string of legal challenges to various town and county ATV laws. In 2007, the Adirondack Council and local residents successfully sued to strike down a county law. In 2008, Bruce Krug and other Town of Leyden residents sued the Town to challenge a 2002 law that opened all town roads to ATVs. Krug is a retired diary farmer in Leyden and a former Lewis County Legislator. Settlements were also reached after legal challenges to close many roads to ATVS in the Towns of West Turin and Martinsburg.

Unfortunately, there were no legal challenges among the citizens of the Towns of Croghan, Greig or Diana, in Lewis County, where blanket laws to open roads to ATVS were not challenged and still stand.

In 2009, Nancy O’Brien-Dailey and others, all representing themselves pro se, the first of this type of action, successfully won a lawsuit against the Town of Lyonsdale.

There were also two important ATV use cases that involved the Forest Preserve. In one case, the Black River Valley Four Wheelers sought access to roads that the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) had illegally opened in the 1980s and 1990s and then closed under legal pressure in 2005. The DEC and Adirondack Park Agency (APA) had failed to uphold the VTL in opening scores of Forest Preserve roads, mostly in the western Adirondacks. Rutted and Ruined lists many of these roads. After road closure, the Black River Valley Four Wheelers sued the DEC, to reopen these roads, but the DEC won in 2006. More importantly, the Town of Horicon sought to control roads on the Forest Preserve in that town so that they could be used for ATV riding. The DEC won that case in 2006 and an appeal in 2007.

There are three other ATV cases in Lewis County that are in progress now. In one case, Rose Pettit, now deceased, filed an Article 78 lawsuit in 2010 to challenge a Lewis County law. Oral arguments were held in March 2013 and a decision is expected any time. The estate of Rose Pettit is financing this lawsuit, which is being handled by attorney Scott Goldie, who was involved with many of the early ATV cases mentioned above.

Janette Peek of the Town of Watson and Gerald Smith of the Town Pinckney are challenging a Lewis County law that opened roads in the towns of Diana, Montague, New Bremen, among others. This case actually went to trial last fall before a judge in State Supreme Court in Lewis County and is now awaiting a decision. Peek and Smith handled the trial pro se with help from other local activists.

Bernadette DeSantis and Bruce Krug launched an Article 78 challenge to a Village of Constableville local ATV law in June 2013. Krug has since been removed from the case as he did not qualify for standing. Oral arguments were made in September. DeSantis is representing this case pro se. A decision will follow the Peek and Smith case, since the facts are so similar.

ATV riding is an intensive and specialized activity that requires special terrain. It’s a sport like golf or downhill skiing, which requires an altered and specially equipped landscape that will likely involve a fee for use. ATV riding damages public resources because forest roads or trails are simply not built in a way that can withstand ATV use. ATV riders who seek to make the mud fly are best suited to private parks, rather than public lands.

Most rural roads are not built to handle ATV traffic, especially along the shoulders. More importantly, private and public lands along public roads that are opened to ATVs are susceptible to trespass and ecological damage. Communities that have roads opened to ATVs are also vulnerable to severe liability claims and high insurance rates; over 10,000 people have been killed in ATV related accidents since 1985 and over 100,000 are injured annually. ATV safety advocates and the manufacturers also advocate against ATV use on roads, citing a lack protection for riders in collisions and unpredictability of operation at high speeds on paved surfaces.

The Article 78 provision of the NYS Civil Practice Law and Rules exists to allow citizens to challenge government decisions they believe are capricious or wrong. Complaints are often made that Article 78 challenges are burdensome. But as it’s plain to see with the actions of these private citizens in Lewis and St. Lawrence counties, the last line of defense for their communities is a legal challenge. Many cannot afford the expenses of legal counsel and now represent themselves. The task of being a citizen litigant is no small feat and involves lots of time and energy.

These legal challenges are all about holding government agencies accountable. This is as American as apple pie. I’m grateful to the scores of local activists from the initial Santagate decision in the late 1990s in Franklin County to those who are waging legal fights in Lewis County today. These people have made the tough calls and have been willing to undertake a huge amount of work or expenses and stick their necks out to defend their communities and the surrounding natural resources. They deserve the thanks of all of us.

Court Cases:

Santagate v Franklin County (1999)

Hutchins v the Town of Colton (2004)

Brown v Town of Pitcairn (2003)

Adirondack Council v Lewis County (2007)

Krug v Town of Leyden (2008)

O’Brien-Dailey v Town of Lyonsdale (2009)

Black River Valley Four Wheelers v NYSDEC (2006)

Town of Horicon v NYSDEC (2006)

Town of Horicon v NYSDEC (2007)

Photos: Above, an ATV user rides through a posted wetland in 2010; middle top, ATV riders on a Lewis County road in 2010; middle bottom, a Lewis County Sheriff’s Department officer stops an ATV rider at a roadblock in 2011; and below, An ATV rider tips over in a posted wetland in 2010.

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Peter Bauer is the Executive Director of Protect the Adirondacks. He has been working in various capacities on Adirondack Park environmental issues since the mid-1980s, including stints as the Executive Director of the Residents' Committee to Protect the Adirondacks and FUND for Lake George as well as on the staff of the Commission on the Adirondacks in the Twenty-First Century. He was the co-founder of the Adirondack Lake Assessment Program (ALAP) in 1998, which has collected long-term water quality data on more than 75 Adirondack lakes and ponds. He has testified before the State Legislature, successfully advocated to pass legislation and budget items, authored numerous articles, op-eds, and reports such as "20% in 2023: An Assessment of the New York State 30 by 30 Act" (2023), "The Adirondack Park and Rural America: Economic and Population Trends 1970-2010" (2019), "The Myth of Quiet, Motor-free Waters in the Adirondack Park" (2013), and "Rutted and Ruined: ATV Damage on the Adirondack Forest Preserve" (2003) and "Growth in the Adirondack Park: Analysis of Rates and Patterns of Development" (2001). He also worked at Adirondack Life Magazine. He served as Chair of the Town of Lake George Zoning Board of Appeals and has served on numerous advisory boards for management of the Adirondack Park and Forest Preserve. Peter lives in Blue Mountain Lake with his wife, has two grown children out in the world, and enjoys a wide variety of outdoor recreational activities throughout the Adirondacks, and is a member of the Blue Mountain Lake volunteer fire department.Follow Protect the Adirondacks on Facebook and Threads.

33 Responses

  1. Keith Silliman says:

    Peter did a great job here laying out hthe relevant legal history on ATV use in the Adirondacks. Appreciate the links, as well. Very helpful.

  2. Trail Ogre says:

    The state made a huge mistake with the VTL by not specifying the distance between trails on the road ……is it 100 yrds or 100 miles

    Also any “multi-use” trail with ATVs on it is an ATV trail plain and simple
    Any users on a multi use trail would be very quickly pushed off by motorized users

    Why would I want to hike or bike on the thruway

    A good Idea would be to run “Multi use” trails down the median on the thruway along with all the other motorized users

  3. Dan N. says:

    Excellent article Peter, thanks! Let’s hope that this activity can continue to be curtailed via the proper legal route.

  4. Running George says:

    Although the distance between trails wasn’t specified in the VTL, the courts have made it very clear that the connections should be short and discrete. More than one judge has commented that what St. Lawrence and Lewis County municipalities are attempting would logically lead to interconnected roads from Lowville to Buffalo and that has received a big thumbs down. Read the cases that Peter has provided, especially O’Brien-Daily and Hutchins.

  5. Justin says:

    Great piece, thank you. I’m glad that ATVs seem to be held at bay in the Adirondacks. I hope it stays that way.

    I think we might be lucky in that those who want to ride fast, loud machines through the woods know that they can do so on snowmobiles, when the ground is protected with a blanket of snow, and the numbers of us who would be disturbed by the noise and activitity are much fewer.

  6. Picking the wrong battles says:

    Mr. Bauer states “The difficulty with local laws opening roads to ATV use is that they are usually intended to simply provide new places to ride, not to provide access to areas where riding is already legally permissible.“

    The current Colton issue is a complete contradiction to this statement. The sections of roads that will be opened were specifically designated to provide access between two areas where riding is already legally permissible. Law makers worked with concerned citizens to mitigate the amount and location of public highways used, and then they got sued after the compromise as a reward for their efforts.

    Additionally, his statement “if ATV riders can trailer their ATV and drive to riding area, then why do they need road access” is a blatant attempt to misinterpret the VTL.

    Not only is it completely unrealistic to assume the intent of the law was that ATV’s on trailers constituted a “possible” way to access an area, the Attorney General’s opinion that he cites states this is not the intent. It clearly reads that the intent was to allow ATV’s (not though the use of other means) to access one riding area to another. (end of page 4 and top of page 5).

    I have no problem with opposition of local laws that haphazardly open public roads (or all roads). That is a contradiction of VTL 2405. But the current local law in Colton is the exact scenario for which the state law was written. There are two trail heads that can only be connected through this route.

    That is why Peter Bauer and PROTECT are alienating even the other environmental groups in the Adirondack region. The complete inability to compromise. When even people with similar interests and goals begin to turn against you, you are doing something wrong.

    PROTECT is to the ADK Conservation movement what the Tea Party is to Conservatives. And Pete Bauer is the Ted Cruz. There is a point that an individual’s alienation of others that would not otherwise have a strong opinion on an issue is counterproductive to the overall cause.

    In my opinion, Mr. Bauer has long since passed that point.

    (P.S. These sections of road in Colton are not inside the park)

    • Running George says:

      Looking at the reaction, it appears the environmental community is united quite strongly behind Mr.Bauer on this issue.

  7. Running George says:

    “Picking” is the one who’s got it wrong. Colton connects a series of roads between alleged riding areas… got that… a series of roads and the courts have taken a strong stand against road to road connections. Colton is nearly identical to what took place in O’Brien-Dailey vs. Lyonsdale. If legitimate riding areas exist nearby in Colton, Mr. Bauer is correct in stating that the ATVs can be trucked or trailered to those riding areas. There is nothing in VTL that allows for roads to be opened to make it convenient for ATV riders to ride from one riding area to another. “Picking” misunderstands what the Attorney General’s opinion states, or as far to often has been the case with ATV advocates, is deliberately trying to slant the meaning of the law so as to allow illegal ATV use. In Lewis County, it is very clear that the purpose of many of the so called riding areas was to attempt to justify opening roads to connect to them, and to make public highways part of the trail system. This idea was rejected in O’Brien-Dailey and other court cases.
    In Lewis County, politicians have taken the attitude that they will pass road opening laws even if they are illegal and the law will stand… unless citizens take them to court. What they have failed to understand is at that point they have exposed taxpayers not only to bad government, but also to a high degree of liability. What a county!

  8. Smitty says:

    I usually think Peter’s views are too uncompromising but I think he’s right about this one. ATVs have no place on public roads or public land.

  9. Pete Klein says:

    The problem as it was developed was one of greed by the manufacturers of ATVs.
    When originally conceived, they were meant to be used by landowners for cheap and quick access to the “back 40” of their properties.
    Then the manufacturers decided that market wasn’t big enough so they then began marketing them to thrill seekers by having ads showing them used to ride wildly fast through the mud and across sands.
    It is not a pleasant experience to be driving down a dirt road and being passed by some kid on an ATV.
    It has happened to me and I am sure to others. They are treated like toys when they are in fact dangerous machines.

  10. chuck samul says:

    in the interest of safety – couldn’t the vehicles be plated and the operators licensed like a car or motorcycle? im no fan of noise in the backcountry but it seems that discrete distances being traveled between private trails should not provide an excessive burden on people or environment.

    • Dan Murphy says:

      Chuck, any ATV that would be allowed to use the trails (or roads) already is plated and registered. There is no license, but there are age restrictions (like a boat). And my club and others in the area will be providing safety courses for riders young and old to ensure the safety of all users.

      And your concern about noise, while valid, is less of issue as far as the Colton road segments go. The trail systems that will be connected are not adjacent to any hiking trails or public areas that can be accessed by anyone that isn’t using the actual trail.

      It is a mix of hunting club, private, and county land. And the road segments are not secluded areas that will have their serenity destroyed by ATV’s.

      Furthermore the people that are promoting this trail have listened to these concerns and are working on a standardized method to apply the current noise standards, much like what has happened with snowmobiles.

      I agree with “picked” that this editorial paints an unrealistic picture of the ATV community that is attempting to build this trail system. The issues that have been raised by opponents have been and continue to be addressed. It is unfortunate that there seems to be no interest in compromise with some individuals, that would allow for a good system that will be enjoyed, safely and responsibly, by the majority of residents in Saint Lawrence County.

      Dan Murphy
      President – Colton Dirt Dogs ATV Club

      • Running George says:

        The age restrictions are laughable. Children as young as ten years old may drive an ATV, a motor vehicle on public highways with only a safety course required. They are supposed to be “accompanied” by adults but will still be on separate machines.
        No license of any kind is required. In fact, it has not been at all uncommon in Lewis County for people that have
        lost their licenses due to a DWI charge to take to the highways on an ATV.
        It’s interesting how the word “compromise” keeps getting thrown around. I’ve seen ATV proponents browbeat, even threaten, those that disagree with them at public hearings. Let’s be clear, the “compromises” that are being demanded consist of how far we will let them go in violating state law, which isn’t a “compromise” at all. The word “compromise” never was part of the ATV community vocabulary until they were faced with the losses in court.

        • Dan Murphy says:

          If age restrictions were a concern, they could easily be addressed. Much like speed concerns, or hours of use concerns.

          And again, you are using an anecdotal argument that ATV users do not listen to others concerns. I can do the same. I have personally had opponents of motorized trail sports make written statements to Town officials that are flat out fabrications to support their cause.

          No one is demanding compromise… how would one actually go about that?

          What I (speaking for Colton ATV users) am asking is, what are your concerns and how do we address them so they are not issues any longer? I am not talking about the roads specifically. I am talking about ALL issues with motorized sports.

          In my opinion (and I am speaking about Colton area only, as I know nothing about Lewis county), opponents of the trail system are not worried about addressing their concerns. Their actions, when dealing with me specifically, show that they are not interested in coexistence at all, and they are more interested in the fight than they are resolving any concerns they have.

          Let me ask you this, is there any instance in which you would support ATV use on public lands and portions of public roads? If your answer is no, I am ok with that, and I respect it.

          • Running George says:

            Anecdotal hey, How about I was threatened on line with a bullet from a 30.06? The law tracked the guy down and charged him with aggravated harassment. He plead guilty in local court. Not anecdotal, factual and documented.
            I don’t know how you co-exist with something that tears up property, (that’s documented also), creates noise and fumes in front of your house and creates dangerous conditions on the roads. On my road I’ve seen ATVs ride two abreast on both sides of the road and even pass cars.
            No, I don’t believe they should be on public highways or public land, but that’s not your problem.
            Just like in other places you are promoting a law that pretends to obey state VTL law and really doesn’t. Now you say people need to compromise… how… by pretending your local law is legal?

            • Dan Murphy says:

              I’m sorry George, that may be factual evidence to you, but to everyone else in this discussion, you are an anonymous screen name with anecdotal evidence.

              I could tell you that someone that is against the Saint Lawrence County Trail set my RZR on fire in protest, and that is documented. Does that make it a fact? Oh wait, it isn’t really the same thing because I am using my real name, so I need to have some accountability for my words.

              Anyway, we are just going round and round at this point. You have said you feel that there is no room for compromise, and you feel justified in your stance. And I support your right to feel that way. If I were you, and the things you claimed actually did happened, I would feel the same way, so I will not try to change your mind.

              My whole point, which you refuse to see, is that just because isolated incidents have taken place in the past does not mean that 99.9 percent of the ATV users are not responsible riders.

              I once got passed by two cyclists riding side by side while I was going down the big hill into Tupper Lake (it happened to me, so apparently that makes it a fact for you). By your rational, does that make every biker irresponsible? Should I try to get road bikes banned? Of course not. You can pick any activity and find a handful of people that abuse it.

              The people that ride in a manner that you describe don’t care if this law is in place or if the trail is organized. Other areas have seen that when an organized and policed trail system is put in place, incidents of abuse go down, not up.

              Why is it ok to use examples from out of the area that have been compiled over a decade to attempt to prove that this multiuse trail will lead to such abuse, and ignore the fact that the adjoining section of trail, in the immediate area, that will be used by the same people, has been open for 5 years and there has not been one example of the issues that you claim are going to be so prevalent? Not one land owner complaint. Not one arrest for any type of abuse. Not one complaint by users… not one .. in 5 years…

              • Running George says:

                Your right about one thing. No need to prolong the head butting. That 99.9% figure though is way off base. I don’t pretend to know the percent of “bad” vs. “good”, but based simply on observation the “bads” are in double digits.
                Problem is, if the noise, fumes, and dangerous highway conditions are in front of your house on an illegally opened road, then by definition they’re all bad.

  11. Running George says:

    Chuck, So far, no town or county has offered short segments of roads as part of a law. Instead they design every law as a way to avoid current state law, rather than to adhere to it. Lewis County has gone so far as to create “pretend trails”, short 300 foot segments that cut the corners at highway intersections, using them as justification for opening roads. The road openings themselves may be a couple of miles long connected by a pretend trail, turning public highways into ATV trails.
    The problem with ATV trails in general, whether actual trails or roads, is that it doesn’t seem to satisfy a high percentage of riders. Opening a road or trail just provides access to some place else that they shouldn’t be. A paper released by the Sierra Club pointed this out based on studies in other states where areas were opened to ATV use.
    As for not providing an excessive burden, well, a home owner listening to a steady roar of ATVs for a weekend would likely think otherwise.
    It goes back to what Phil Klein said… these things started out as work machines and were turned into a consumer good and now people that bought them with no thought of where they can ride them, are demanding access to public land and roads.

    • Running George says:

      Sorry,PETE Klein.

    • Dan Murphy says:

      Running George, I must respectfully disagree with you on a couple of points.

      Most importantly that no Town has offered short segments of roads connecting trails. The current law in Colton connects roughly 10 miles of trail on one side to 30 miles of trail on the other side (I am guess-timating those figures). Not a short segment of trail, and then more road. If you started on one end of the trail, and rode to the other, you could spend all day and the only road you would touch would be the segments in South Colton that are being disputed. And I am not a lawyer, and I do not want to discuss the specifics of the Article 78 in Colton, as it is ongoing, but I believe the issue with O’Brien-Dailey vs. Lyonsdale was that the Town was opening “offshoot” roads to connect to the other roads. I do not believe the issue was that more than one road was used to connect two trail segments when it is the shortest direct route (and only possible route). Again, that is not for me to interpret, I will leave that to the lawyers.

      And lastly, I have to disagree that trail systems will not satisfy the majority of riders. The pilot portion of the Saint Lawrence County trail has been open for 5 years. There have been no land owner or user complaints. Not one.

      I know I am going to pounced on for this by other commenters, and I am ok with that, but as I have said very publicly in Colton, it is far too easy take anecdotal isolated incidents and claim that it is indicative of an entire user group. I (privately, not publicly) supplied a multitude of photos to the leaders of our hiking trail community that showed vandalism, trespass, dumping of garbage, and open fire pits at the base of 100’ live trees and in our Fire Station lawn. This was all done by hikers and kayakers during a two day event in Colton. My point was, it is very easy to point fingers at isolated incidents to attempt to prove a point, but in the end, it doesn’t resolve any issues. The ATV community has asked repeatedly to work with those that have issues with motorized recreation, to develop workable plans to eliminate the issues that they see. Not only have we been ignored, we have been vilified for it.

      Again, I am sure there will be a good amount of opposition to this statement, but there is a tremendous amount of public and private land in our area. Motorized sport enthusiasts are not attempting to overtake hiking or biking trails. We would like a very isolated, direct route that can be used (with input from all) to enjoy our sport. We have proven in our immediate area that we can do this without upsetting the public or the environment, and we can do it safely and responsibly. To not allow this to even be attempted shows a complete inability to compromise, and a certain level of selfishness.

      Dan Murphy
      President – Colton Dirt Dogs ATV Club

      • Running George says:

        You are missing the point on the road side of the equation. The “short segments of road” are three miles of connected public highways that effectively are being made part of the trail system.
        In O’Brien-Dailey, there were Lewis County Reforestation Lands in the towns of Lyonsdale and Greig with trails in each reforestation area. The Town of Lyonsdale opened roads to connect the Lyonsdale trails to the Greig trails. The same thing is essentially taking place in Colton and to say differently is only finding a distinction without a difference. The Judge in O’Brien-Dailey made it very clear as to what was or was not possible and none of it allowed for connecting a series of roads between riding areas.
        As for Colton being an on going court case… not anymore. The town plans to rescind their law.

        • Dan Murphy says:

          Again, I am not a lawyer, but the attorney general’s opinion in regard to the implementation of the law is very clear.

          When VTL 2045 replaced the previous Parks and Rec law, there was to be no “sustantative change” in the law.

          The previous law stated “when necessary to travel from one off highway trail to another when.. blah blah blah.. when otherwise impossible”

          The interpretation that is being taken now, that trailering from one off road trail to another proves that it is not impossible, seems to me to be an obvious “substantative change” in the intent of the law.

          • Running George says:

            The Attorney General’s opinion was very clear as have been the Court decisions prior to the Ag’s opinion and the subsequent cases and that is that it must be “otherwise impossible” to gain access to trails or areas “adjacent” to the highway. The AG’s opinion was also crystal clear that it was not about a matter of convenience on behalf of ATV riders, but impossibility.
            There has been no substantive change from the previous law. The reality now is that there have been court challenges and an AG’s opinion that didn’t exist in the mid 1980’s under the previous law. Why? Back then local governments weren’t running rampant opening roads to ATVs that they have no legal authority to open.

            • Dan Murphy says:

              The original law stated that roads could be opened in order to connect two adjoining riding areas.

              Now your interpretation is that roads cannot be opened to connect two adjoining riding areas.

              And you don’t think this is a change in the law?

              Let’s just stop on this point, neither of us are going to change the others mind.

      • TrailOgre says:

        “it is far too easy take anecdotal isolated incidents and claim that it is indicative of an entire user group”

        And yet you use anecdotal evidence to put down hikers/kayakers…but it sounds as if they were camped at the firehouse?

        From what I see there are NO responsible ATV riders I live near a gas line that is private property and every ATV rider rides like an idiot where are not supposed to be ….they are locals….when you try to talk to them they try to run you over………So I just call the police

        My thought is that these people that have “no problem” with ATVs screaming down their road are afraid to say anything because they don’t have ATV’s doing donuts on their lawns

        • Dan Murphy says:

          They were camped at our firehouse. Without permission from anyone, and left it trashed, along with one of the nicest hiking trails in New York state that was littered and vandalized . If you want to post your email (or email me at I would be happy to send you my private letter that we needed to do something to fix issues that affected us all.

          But you missed my point all together.I didnt put anyone down, quite the opposite. I could have used this isolated incident to try to publicly tarnish the image of the trail committee in our town, but I didn’t. I attempted to try to work with them to fix the issue. I was ignored. Which is fine. And I am being ignored by you as well, even though you are reading what I am writing, you are not hearing what I am saying. Which again is fine, I didn’t expect to change anyone’s mind.

          Furthermore, I apologize if it seems dismissive, by I do not believe that anyone tried to run you over, or did donuts in your lawn. Maybe someone did, what do I know. But bold claims are often made by individuals that use screen names who do not have to prove their claims.

          • TrailOgre says:

            I didn’t say they did donuts on my lawn
            But they did try to run me over..I just tried to ask them to leave…

            But you place the blame on hikers and kayakers for making the mess ,but you really didn’t see anyone do it
            It could have been kids in the area just getting drunk and messing things up there is no way to know for sure

            But there is no mistaking damage done by ATVs
            Along with running stop signs, running away from law enforcement, riding in unauthorized areas, although you can’t attribute these all the time to specific riders, (its handy wearing a helmet to hide your identity)

            Just from the number of incidences I would say its more than 1% of riders

            Just my opinion of course

  12. Activists use the courts to stop ATV abuses | Protect the Adirondacks! says:

    […] This article was also published on the Adirondack Almanack. […]

  13. Charlie S says:

    “For more than a decade in the western Adirondacks and Tug Hill, local residents have repeatedly gone to court to stop aggressive local and county governments from illegally opening public roads to ATV riding. These same local governments also seek access to nearby Forest Preserve, state forests and conservation easement lands for ATV use.”

    Not to go political but the above is a mere example of Tory government leaders and who and what they represent.It’s like night and day the difference.

  14. Bill G. says:

    Come to Parishville with your ATVs. We dont’ have a bunch of sissymarys running things.

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