LOWVILLE — Lewis County is poised with new programs designed to support the motorized recreation industry and county trail system by preventing challenges that have come with the growth of the industry.

A resolution to accept the bid of a yet-to-be-named private security company that will provide a “safety, security and surveillance” presence on the county’s motorized recreational trail system was moved forward to the full Board of Legislators by the General Services Committee on Tuesday.

“The plan right now is to interview different security firms to see if they can provide private security personnel to go out and ride on the trails, potentially monitor hot spots, call in incidents if they see them, report them, and then also, possibly provide education to people on the trails and just a deterrent effect by their presence,” committee chair Ian W. Gilbert, R-New Bremen, said during the meeting.

The idea of hiring a private security company evolved from a brainstorming session during the winter on the state of snowmobiling in the county led by the county’s development office, Naturally Lewis, and the Chamber of Commerce. The session included representatives from local businesses, snowmobile clubs, government agencies and other interested parties.

The group discussed some of the challenges snowmobiling presents, including high-speed drivers, crash-related fatalities, drivers who go off trails onto private land thereby putting the trails situated only with the landowners’ approvals at risk and, ultimately, the need for more of a law enforcement or security presence on trails to prevent those problems and to provide assistance or information for riders.

Hiring a private security company was a workaround for challenges hiring part-time deputies for the recreation patrol that is part of Sheriff Michael P. Carpinelli’s office.

The security company personnel would be similar to private security officers for buildings, Mr. Gilbert said. If they see something while on the trails using all-terrain vehicles or snowmobiles, they will report it to the sheriff’s office for action, extending the presence of authority, not replacing the recreation patrol. The private security officers will not be qualified or authorized to make arrests.

“I’m in opposition, I want to tell you that right now,” Sheriff Carpinelli told the committee. “I think that $120,000 could have gone toward the sheriff’s office to put manpower something better than hiring a local security company. I think you’re going to run into problems with that.”

County Manager Ryan M. Piche said the $120,000 would not cover the cost of one full-time deputy because of the benefits associated with a full-time position.

Staffing the recreation patrol is an ongoing point of contention between legislators and the sheriff.

The sheriff has funding cleared to hire as many part-time patrol officers as he needs for both trail and road patrol but recruiting part-time employees qualified and trained to be deputies has been challenging. Retired deputies have typically been used for the patrol.

Two school resource officers under the sheriff’s jurisdiction were hired full time with the agreement that in the summer months when they are not needed at school they would patrol trails. However, they have reportedly been needed to instead cover vacation time for other officers in the past, leaving the trails with limited patrolling.

Of the four committee members present, only Legislator Phillip C. Hathway, R-Harrisville, voted against moving the measure forward to the full board for consideration.

Forestry, Recreation and Parks Department Director Jackie L. Mahoney proposed a new Motorized Recreation Road Fund, which would be available to reimburse towns and villages for materials needed to repair their roads in the trail system damaged because of events or other special circumstances relating to motorized recreation, but not normal wear and tear.

She said legislators could also decide to expand what the funds can be used for to include signs and other materials that will improve the system and cut costs for municipalities.

“New market trends have brought bigger and faster machines that, combined with varying weather conditions, can have a huge impact on the roads of Lewis County,” she said.

The fund would be financed initially with $200,000 designated by the county but would be replenished from the estimated $2.6 million in recreation industry-generated sales tax money brought in to the county.

“I think our effort here is to send an olive branch to the towns and say we recognize how important this is to our local economy, that we recognize the county is collecting the sales tax which is a large economic benefit and we want them to be involved and active and see recreation as not something that simply costs money every time there’s some damage but is something we all benefit from,” Mr. Piche said. “Having this well they can go to hopefully will make everybody feel a little bit more positive about it.”

Because it has no cities, Lewis County is not obligated to share sales tax with town and villages, which has frequently been flagged by the municipalities.

The idea evolved from feedback given at New York State County Highway Superintendents Association meetings, Mrs. Mahoney said, and although she confirmed that her department’s trail crew repairs ATV damage on trails on town roads when they are notified by highway superintendents through money brought in by trail permits in most cases, there is no such fund for snowmobile damage.

“It’s our way of trying to give back,” Mrs. Mahoney said. “There’s a lot this could turn into.”

Although the annual Snirt Run that attracts thousands of ATVs to county trails was part of the impetus for the fund idea, Mrs. Mahoney said it is not the only reason the fund is needed. Larger, faster, more damaging machines combined with unpredictable weather conditions and more people taking part in motorized recreation are all at play.

The committee voted to recommend another round of changes to the county’s special event permit for the full board’s consideration.

Those changes include making the permit required for events that use town roads if the town has opted into the county event law; requiring motorized events with 150 people or more to obtain a permit; and giving Mrs. Mahoney more discretion to decide if smaller events need permits or insurance and the option to wave the $20 permit fee as she sees fit. The fee range will also change from $50 to $500 for non-motorized events and $500 to $1,000 for motorized events in the latest law amendments.

Motorized recreation generates an estimated $35.45 million worth of economic activity in the county.

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(3) comments

Blasko087

I also agree with the sheriff, why pay a company basically to do what land owners are already doing? They have no authority, no clout, just a phone. So now, they see something and still have to call a cop? What did we just pay for? I am an avid rider of both atv and snowmobiles on the hill, I rode over 800 miles this year and never, not once saw a sheriff or dec. But was definitely passed several times but people out of the area and out of control in the trails I pay to ride on. We live here, it's time to take care of things ourselves, this attitude of pass the buck and let someone else do it needs to stop. This is our backyard, we pay the taxes here, we drive these roads day in and out, and have to take care of them when the abusers leave. Let Carp pay someone to do the job and do it well. A presence on the hill full time is needed, there is just too much leeway and people abuse it.

plow Boy

Folks Law Enforcement can apply for FREE $ for trail security from special funds set aside from the NYS snowmobile $100 yearly registration fee funds. This has been the case since day one . The sheriff has to buget/manage real well to make things happen. I snowmobile both in Old Forge and on Tug Hill and am glad i can schedule my riding during the week as the weekends are just more dangerous that this 70 year life time snowmobiler likes. Folks just want to have too much fun and the shorter snowmobile season only makes it more so. I have no silver bullet to offer but an increased law enforcement presence on the trails can only help

HotelMike

I have to admit it, the sheriff is tight on this. It’s ludicrous to have a private security on trails when you can simply have sheriffs deputies patrol. Who dreams this stuff up?

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