The Town of Forestport, Oneida County, had designated Smith-Buck Lake Road open to ATVs, which is prohibited under State Law except for short stretches that connect legal trail systems. The judge ruled that the town had failed to comply with the legal requirements for opening the road to ATVs.
“Our family has a home and property in the Adirondack Park in the Town of Forestport because of the peace and tranquility,” said James Klodnicki, who lives on the road. “We don’t live next to an ATV trail, so we thought we were safe, until the town opened our road to ATVs. That decision could have changed the character of our neighborhood very drastically.”
“ATVs can cause damage that snowmobiles and other motorized and mechanized forms of recreation do not,” Adirondack Council Executive Director William Janeway said in a statement to the press. “The Adirondack Council opposes all off-road or trail use of motorized vehicles on Forest Preserve lands in the Adirondack Park, with few exceptions.”
The Adirondack Council filed the suit that led to the ruling by NYS Supreme Court Justice Samuel D. Hester. “We are trying to discourage the unlawful expansion of ATV riding in the Adirondacks,” Janeway said. “This isn’t the first time we have filed a lawsuit like this, but we hope it will be the last.”
The Adirondack Council won a similar lawsuit against the Lewis County Legislature in March 2007, when State Supreme Court Justice Joseph McGuire voided the county’s Local Law #7-2006 creating an ATV trail network. Justice McGuire ruled that the county failed to take into account the potential for damage to the environment. Some of those county lands were also adjacent to constitutionally protected state Forest Preserve.
“There is plenty of room for motorized and mechanized recreation in the Adirondack Park,” Janeway said. “But it is important for public officials to recognize that there are some places that are too sensitive and need to be protected from destructive uses.”
“ATVs just don’t belong on the Forest Preserve, or in places where riders can easily trespass into neighborhoods or other off-limits areas,” said former Lewis County Legislator and farmer Bruce Krug of Constableville. “They can do too much damage, too quickly. Local residents and taxpayers get stuck with the bill.”
Janeway said the Adirondack Council has not opposed all motorized or mechanized recreation and has supported state efforts to open new ATV-riding areas on commercial timberlands where the state has purchased public motorized recreational rights.
“We are generally against the use of ATVs on the public Adirondack Forest Preserve, which we consider to be a priceless national treasure,” he said. “We support exceptions for official search and rescue, permitted scientific research, and for disabled access, which is approved pursuant to State Department of Environmental Conservation policy.”
The Adirondack Council’s legal complaint stated that the town’s law violated state Vehicle and Traffic Law regarding the use of highways by ATVs. In addition, it said the town failed to assess the potential for damage to the environment under the State Environmental Quality Review Act. It also alleged that the town failed to provide adequate public notice that the new law was going to be adopted, depriving the public of an opportunity to participate in the discussion.
Photo: Attendees of the annual SNIRT ATV Rally.