LOWVILLE — The annual SNIRT Run will be April 21, and officials are discussing tightening local laws for all-terrain vehicles to mitigate backlash from landowners.
“It’s getting pretty obvious that if we don’t do something we may not have a trail system,” Legislator Jerry King said to Undersheriff Jason McIntosh in the April 5 committee meeting between the sheriff and county attorney.
After the 2017 SNIRT Run, club and town officials said that little damage was reported by local landowners. Michael K. Leviker, the Lewis County Sheriff’s Department’s parks and recreation officer, said that there were only three ATV-related complaints called in on that day.
Yet calls to legislators suggest that despite positive reports, there are landowners who feel ignored.
“In the call I received last week, one person was infringed upon, and five people were banded together to say that they were done with this.” Mr. King said.
The undersheriff answered, “We had an issue at SNIRT last year.”
“People don’t like to be abused,” Mr. King said.
Leading up to the 2018 SNIRT Run, the web page of event sponsor Barnes Corners Sno-Pals snowmobile club reads, “Please stay on the assigned route. Do not get off the trails or onto private property. Last year there was substantial damage to fields and the road right of ways.”
Legislator Ronald J. Burns asked if damage reports were available to the public. Mr. McIntosh answered that the information seeker would have to go through FOIL, the Freedom of Information Law that allows for the full or partial disclosure of information controlled by the government.
“What can we do to work together to make sure landowners are heard? That landowners have restitution?” Mr. King asked.
Mr. McIntosh said that restitution would be a matter for the courts to decide after a ticket was issued.
The topic is one that Lewis County manager Ryan Piche has been talking about with other officials. He noted that they were discussing it just the day before.
“I’m looking into strengthening local laws to protect people,” he said.
County Attorney Joan E. McNichol agreed that local laws may deserve attention.
“We should see if there are changes we want to make,” she said.
Mr. King suggested that the language of local laws be changed so that a person who violates state ATV and motor vehicle laws is not permitted in the SNIRT run the following year. In 2017, Mr. Leviker estimated that there could have been as many as 7,000 ATV operators on the Tug Hill Plateau for the SNIRT run, even though only 4,690 were registered, permitted participants.
Mr. McIntosh stressed that people may need to be made aware about the laws that already exist.
“Let people know that they can be criminally prosecuted,” he said.
“It is difficult,” he added. He said that the Sheriff’s Department sent deputies to the scene when they heard that people were driving ATVs on Route 294.
“The trail system had flooded, and the riders were diverting to the road,” Mr. McIntosh said.