Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Judge Strikes Down Effort To Open Public Road To ATVs

SNIRT Run VideoA NYS Supreme Court Justice has overturned a local law that would have expanded all-terrain vehicle (ATV) riding onto a public road in the Adirondack Park.

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.

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41 Responses

  1. Paul says:

    Why is a motorcycle (or even a bike) legal on the road and not these things? I don’t care much for them but this doesn’t sound too fair to me.

  2. Charlie S says:

    Life isn’t fair Paul…too often to too many people life is just not fair. More often life is not fair to species lesser than the humankind powerless that they be (the lesser species powerless that is.) I mean who in their clear-headed minds really cares that atv-er’s have one less avenue to wreak their havoc upon? That said….why question it?

  3. Scott says:

    If the concern about ATVs driving on an existing road is really about potential off road ATVs, why not just make the rangers do their job and stop the illegal folks so the rest of the law abiding folks can enjoy driving whatever vehicle type they prefer.

    • Boreas says:


      I would like to think you are kidding.

    • common sense says:

      Valid point Scott. These folks register and insure these vehicles and as long as they follow the rules of the road (enforced by Rangers, SP, etc.) why bother them?? I’m confused why these residents feel unsafe?

      • M.P. Heller says:

        Because the ATV crowd has been demonized for so long that not even the responsible users can expect to be allowed to enjoy their choice of recreational activity anymore. It’s guilt by association. Nothing more.

        There are bad apples in every group. Keg parties on Phelps Mountain. Drunken snowmobilers. Poachers. The list goes on and on.

        The concern that I have regarding the ATV users is that if we don’t give them a place to play in that is legal, they will use places that are not legal, which further perpetuates the cycle of destruction. It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy.

        • TrailOgre says:

          ATVrs give themselves a bad name ……………….

          THey run from police……landowners……….they wear helmets so they cant be identified

          They ride where they are not supposed to

          I think they have plenty of places to ride

          Tughill is already an ATV wasteland …..let them ride there…

          This really is one Wreckreation that should…….

          • kathy says:

            Please don’t encourage them here,there are still some areas they have not ruined the walking trails. The same at people who cause damage do it with their snowmobiles also.
            It’s the riders not the machines!

      • Boreas says:

        common sense said ” (enforced by Rangers, SP, etc.)”

        In a perfect world, there would be an ample supply of law enforcement with nothing to do but patrol dirt roads and woods scattered over the State looking for illegal ATV use. But taxpayer priorities are in other places. It is much easier and quicker to patrol a road where ATV use is illegal than trying to patrol a legal road and the surrounding forest to make sure no one is breaking the law in the backcountry, let alone trying to prove a case against someone breaking those laws off the road.

        That is the Pandora’s box that is opened by allowing legal access deeper into the preserve. It isn’t likely NYS DEC/SP is going to hire additional staff to patrol these areas effectively. I agree ATV access should be increased, but I think we need to look very carefully about where we add this access.

        • Scott says:

          It can be a slippery slope (pandora box). Easier is not always better. Do we really want to stop all the lawful good folks from enjoying their freedom in the name of preventing the few ‘bad apples’ from potential wrong doing? No fun allowed by anyone because someone might do it wrong? We are talking about existing roads already used by other vehicles. Want to ban hikers because some won’t practice leave no trace? Want to ban primitive camping because some leave litter and burn garbage? I say leave the lawful good folks alone and go after the bad ones.

          • Boreas says:

            It isn’t a question of “easy”. It is a question of enforcement and amount of potential damage. I personally witnessed an adjacent 200 acre property near me in PA damaged over a weekend – approx 18 acres worth of torn up fallow fields, wetlands, streams, vernal pools, and forest. IN A WEEKEND!! No one was caught. 15 more acres were damaged over the next month or so. Someone was suspected, but never charged because they weren’t caught in the act. The landowner received no compensation, and the scars were there 15 years later when I revisited. This was in an area with plenty of eyes and not very sensitive environmentally. I would hate to see this in the Forest Preserve.

            • Helga Frick says:

              Thank you, Boreas. You speak for many of us. The damage
              we used to encounter on some of the remote hiking trails in
              the Western part of the Forest Preserve was heartbreaking.
              Also broken little wooden bridges, deep, water filled ruts that made the trails impassable, etc. Such unspeakable destruction! Thank goodness, outlawing ATVs has improved the situation.

          • TrailOgre says:

            Its not a “few” bad apples ….I would say a lot of bad apples …..that think they have some sort of entitlement to destroy things for their own enjoyment…………………………

            • TrailOgre says:

              A perfect place to put ATV trails ….would be down the median on the Thruway…………….

              • Boreas says:

                The best place is riding legally on their own private property. Then they own any damage. A registration is not a Get Out Of Jail Free card (if anyone remembers what that is!). Marshy land tends to be a favorite of both ATV and mud truck owners. I know some state lands that have marshy areas off either side of the road along the river. Guess where they ride – yup, right up to the axles. If you have a $10k toy, why not ‘see what she can do’? So then DEC – already spread thin – needs to come in and place boulders to keep the idiots out of the mud. Insanity….

                • Paul says:

                  You got idiot hikers in the High Peaks with their dogs stomping rare alpine vegetation (much more sensitive than your run of the mill wetlands on the side of the road). Would they ever support a ban on dogs above 3000 feet – never!). It is all relative.

          • AG says:

            What is the goal of the Adirondacks? ATV use can be very destructive. If it is a viable business someone can/will buy private lands and rent it to ATV users to enjoy – just like other types of motorized vehicles that are for “fun”. Not sure it is a good business model because unless go karts or even private cars using a track – ATV’s often destroy the land they use… So that same piece of land won’t be “fun” anymore.

  4. M. Heshmat says:

    Good! I have ATVs and live inside the Blue Line, but these machines have their place and proper usage. I support this ruling.

    • TrailOgre says:

      Finally people are waking up to this scourge ……..having 12 year olds
      tearing back and forth in front of your house 8 hrs a day …….no one should have to put up with that ……………If you don’t have a place to ride an ATV ……..DONT BUY ONE!!

  5. ADK Hornet says:

    This latest affront by the Adirondack Council on local government is more evidence of the pay for play culture that exists in N.Y.S. While the Joe and Jane’s on main street are working every day to try and support their families the green bully elitist are sucking money out of Wall Street that is used to promulgate their ideological and recreational agendas and line their pockets. The conjured up ATV boogie man marching on the forest preserve to decimate the “fictional” wilderness has reaped big financial benefits for the Adirondack Council, ADK and Protect and yes even the Adirondack Almanac. It’s time for N.Y.S. to enact legislation that knocks the enviro litigants off their bully pulpit and force them to get a “real job”!

    Local governments need to make decisions for their citizenry not Wall Street’s enviro puppets! The lawsuit was necessary to protect the citizens…give me a break!

  6. Running George says:

    Regarding ATVs on roads a major point has been missed. These things are not designed for use on paved roads or other hard surfaces. The manufacturers state not for use on “paved roads or public highways”.
    The tires on ATVs are designed to grip sod, not pavement and not hard packed gravel roads.
    Their design lends itself to tearing up off road terrain and makes them unstable on highways.
    If you don’t have your own property on which to operate one you probably should not be buying one rather than demanding access to highways and public lands.
    Just for the record, Tug Hill doesn’t deserve this abuse either.

    • Andy atv says:

      The US *makes* the manufacturing company label them that way! Bought my atv in Germany where they are street legal. I rode with both street and mx tires on the autobahn.

      Mine has no ‘ warnings ‘ about on road use. They’re really not different than a motorcycle.
      And didn’t our society once pigeon hole motorcycle owners/riders as degenerates?

      Legalize them, educate the owners and public and be a responsible driver.

      • Boreas says:

        Many of us still consider anyone purposely riding a motorcycle with open pipes on a public road a degenerate. : D

      • AG says:

        You bring up Germany? If people in the U.S. had to adhere to German road laws or even go through the rigorous license process – there would be half as many drivers. Maybe even less.

        • Boreas says:


          And that would be a “bad” thing? Driving in Germany is still considered a privilege and is taken very seriously. As many as 10% of people on our roads have suspended/revoked licenses and/or no insurance. Sure doesn’t make me feel safe…

    • Boreas says:


      Good points. Perhaps the industry should offer different vehicle (2WD) and tire packages for different uses. Perhaps road usage could be allowed with ATVs with smoother, more effective tires for road use which would male off-road use more problematic. It would also make road usage easier to enforce – knobby tires, get a ticket. But this isn’t likely to happen, as the same argument could be used for pickups and SUVs.

      One of the issues that is often missed is the terrain type. ATVs and 4WD vehicles used off-road in more arid areas like the Rockies and deserts don’t have quite the same erosion and damage problems because of the lack of water and the mainly sand/gravel/stony nature of the soils. In forested areas, the soil is a major component of the ecosystem – determining both the forest type and how robust it is to self-repair damage. Much of the Preserve is thin, mineral soil over rock, which is easily damaged, difficult to recover, and very erosion prone. Hence many of the bare slopes we see that burned in the 19th century. It can take centuries to recover, if ever.

      I can also see riders petitioning local governments for local parcels to be dedicated specifically to ATV use such as old gravel/sand pits or recently forested areas. This way erosion and noise could be mitigated better. But I don’t see riders being happy with staying on dirt roads in the Preserve. In more open areas, people do the same illegal activities with 4WD vehicles. Just human nature….

      • Paul says:

        “mainly sand/gravel/stony nature of the soils”. Like we see on dirt roads in the Adirondacks.

        • Boreas says:

          The roads are fine for the purpose. The point everyone is trying to make if you read carefully is that it is nearly impossible to enforce keeping vehicles ON the roads.

          • Scott says:

            I have seen areas where dedicated rangers have shut down almost all illegal ATV use to the point there is rarely any off road use.

            • Boreas says:


              That would be perfect. I’m not saying they don’t do a good job, but how much thinner can we spread these officers? As long as NYS realizes that opening these roads to off-road vehicles and off-road bikes necessitates additional patrolling and enforcement and PROVIDES the manpower for it, I’m game. But with every budget crunch, these are the first positions left unfilled. Perhaps if local governments want local roads to be opened, THEY should provide the patrolling, not DEC.

  7. rc says:

    I find more trash and destruction from ATV users than any other group.

    – Snowmobilers leave the odd can or bottle. Same with hunters.
    – ATV users leave BAGS full of trash.

    – Snowmobilers stick to trails
    – ATV users go off trail to make their own and think that a bit of illegal cutting on private land is okay

    The snowmobilers and hunters are welcome, and do a good job of taking care of things. The ATVers… not so much

    Think I’m kidding or being over protective?
    Come help me clean up. For the first time, I’ll be posting and patrolling.
    I’m tired of the mess.

    • Boreas says:


      Unfortunately, many people are brought up to believe private/posted land should be respected, but State land doesn’t belong to anybody, so it is OK to trash it. All you have to do is check a few pull-offs or parking areas in State land and you’ll find tires, mattresses, bags of trash, etc. – basically being used as dumps. This is an ingrained, cultural behavior from the past where people would simply throw their garbage, refrigerators, old cars, etc. over any bank or into a stream. It can still be seen in many areas.

      In the US, land ownership by European settlers was a relatively new phenomenon, and often resulted in a type of resentment or backlash from the typical land-use ethic in Europe. In much of Europe, land was traditionally owned only by nobles who would patrol their valuable lands and make sure any ‘renters’ were taking good care of their natural resources. Much of the mistreatment of lands tends to be related to these cultural and attitude changes with European settlement.

      One of my favorite abuses are the pickup owners who throw loose trash into the beds of their trucks and let the wind disperse it randomly throughout the landscape. That way they don’t feel they are littering – it’s just that damn wind!

    • kathy says:

      Snowmobiles go off trail and cause damage also ,and those cans and bottles add up. When I get too old to walk far I envision a snowmobile or atv to continue to enjoy the outdoors but I’m a feared that the trails will be too dangerous for sightseeing because of the antics of the few who feel entitled to ride wherever and however they want.

  8. Bruce says:

    What bothers me aside from legal considerations and misuse is folks who make comments like this: “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,”

    If one buys property that has certain desirable features when they buy it (peace and quiet for example), do they have a “right” to expect it’s going to remain that way forever? I don’t think so. My grandfather once told me, that if you want some measure of control over outside forces affecting your property, you had best buy enough of it that no one can get close enough.

    Grandpa was one of the first folks to buy property in a new community on the outskirts of a major city. He bought one of the nicer lots and built his house. At the time, there was no one else on the block (1924). He told me his mistake was in not buying 4 or 5 lots instead of just one.

  9. Dave says:

    I looked at the roads in question & they either sit just outside of the ADK park, or just in. Since NO ATVs are allowed to be ridden within the ADK Park, I guess the judge got it right.

    • John Warren says:

      It’s not true that no ATVs are allowed to ride within the Adirondack Park. There is a difference between the Adirondack Park (a much larger area of private and public land) and the protected Adirondack Forest Preserve (forever wild public land) which mostly does not allow ATVs.

  10. Peter Kohlberger says:

    One quad can do a million dollars damage in a day. 3500 ATVs is an assault on the land and the people. There should be jail time for the Lewis County legislators.

  11. stephen park says:

    Glad to hear this happened

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