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Vermont ATV News

Postby Paul » Mon Jun 08, 2009 10:58 am

Agency proposes new ATV rules
By HOWARD WEISS-TISMAN, Reformer Staff

Friday, May 29

BRATTLEBORO -- The Agency of Natural Resources is proposing a new rule that would open up state lands to all terrain vehicles.
The rule is being considered to help create the links that would establish a statewide trail system for the motorized vehicles that have grown in popularity over the past few years.

ATV riders in Vermont can only legally ride on private land with the consent of the landowner and on Class 4 roads with the approval of the municipality. There are 21 local clubs in the state with about 600 miles of legal trails.

If the proposed rule is adopted, tracts of state land will be opened to allow riders to travel from one trail system to the next.

"Riding is getting very popular. People don't know that there are clubs all over the state and this would help link us all together," said Lloyd Church of West Townshend, the president of the Southern Vermont Trailriders. "It would open up a statewide trail and add a major amount of legal mileage you could ride with ATVs."

Church started the Windham County group in 2006 and the club has developed more than 40 miles of legal trails by working with land owners who allow the machines on their properties.

Church, who owns an inn in West Dover, said opening the state land would be a boon to small business owners all over Vermont who serve the ATV riders.

"We would love to have them come through and I know there are other inn owners in the
state who feel the same way," he said. "If the little towns open up town roads it would help. I think it would lead to great growth in the economy of Vermont."

But not everyone agrees.

Jamey Fidel, who is a forest and biodiversity program director with the Vermont Natural Resource Council, said Gov. James Douglas set up an ATV task force in 2004 and a long list of recommendations were included in the final report.

Fidel said opening state land was only one of those proposals, but he questioned why none of the other points were considered.

"VNRC participated in the governor's ATV Collaborative. The collaborative offered a comprehensive package of recommendations including the need to raise registration fees to improve enforcement, increase penalties for illegal riding, and address safety issues and the environmental review of new trail development," Fidel said. "Opening up public lands to ATV use was by far the most controversial topic. It is concerning that the most controversial issue is now being promoted by the state while the Collaborative recommendations that had consensus support are left unaddressed."

Under the proposed rule, the secretary of the Agency of Natural Resources would decide which trails may be designated for use by ATVs.

Only established Class 4 trails on state lands would be considered and conflicting uses and environmental impacts would be taken into consideration.

The secretary would also have the authority to designate trails for only certain times of the year.

The Vermont All-Terrain Vehicles Sportsman's Association, or VASA, would be the official authority that petitions the secretary about proposed lands.

VASA would also be responsible for maintaining the trails.

ANR has scheduled a public hearing on Monday, June 15, from 7 to 9 p.m., in the auditorium of the Pavilion Office Building in Montpelier.

The agency will continue to collect public input until June 22.

If the hearings move the proposal forward, the rule would go before the Legislative Committee on Administrative Rules, before it goes to the Secretary of State's office.

Warren Coleman, an attorney for the Agency of Natural Resources, said the rule could be in place by the end of the summer.

According to Coleman, there are no sketched plans to open large pieces of land.

He said the secretary will look at each request independently and will follow each of the considerations spelled out in the rule.

"Each trail will be OK'd on a case by case basis," Coleman said. "There will be a specific analysis done for each proposed trail."

Danny Hale, VASA's executive director, said the group was happy with the proposed rule.

He said the rule would not open up large areas of state forest to ATVs, but would instead allow the riders to use existing forest roads.

The state encourages hiking and boating and hunting and fishing and Hale said it was time that ATV riders in the state received the same support.

"Many ATVers in Vermont feel that, as taxpaying citizens, the state of Vermont needs to provide a place for our recreation," said Hale. "All of our membership feels that the state has failed to provide that for us. That is a huge issue for a lot of us."

VASA has 2,634 members and Hale said membership, and trail creation, has been growing by 10 percent annually.

He said the group does hope to have an end-to-end trail in Vermont someday, but initially only small parcels would be requested to link up local groups, such as those in Windham and Bennington counties.

"There is no grand plan and they will not open any state land without going through the process," said Hale. "We will not be adding any substantial trail. That is not what this is about."

A full text of the proposed rule is at the ANR Web site: http://www.anr.state.vt.us/site/html/ru ... teLand.pdf

Howard Weiss-Tisman can be reached at hwtisman@reformer.com or 802-254-2311, ext. 279.

Source: Brattleboro Reformer http://www.reformer.com/ci_12475600
Guy that used to do stuff a long long time ago.
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