NEW BREMEN — The state Department of Health issued a cease and desist order Thursday to the Stuck in the Muck Off-road Park at the Adirondack Speedway.
“Based on the information available, this venue has willfully violated public health law in hosting recent events that egregiously exceeded the current limit on non-essential gatherings, as well as guidance pertaining to race track operations,” said Jason Conwall, spokesman for Gov. Andrew Cuomo, in a written statement. “We have been in close contact with Lewis County officials and today, the venue will be served with a cease and desist order.”
Stuck in the Muck, 8403 Artz Road, claims to be the largest off-road park in the Northeast, according to its Facebook page, with over 600 acres of property with a variety of bogs, mud pits and tracks.
The venue hosted the Mega Truck Swampbog Showdown from June 25 to 28, which attracted hundreds of people.
“As soon as I hear about it, or see it or find it, I can comment on it but until then I can’t say anything about it,” said Eric D. Young, park manager and event organizer, noting the owner of the speedway and the park, Paul Lyndaker, also said he had not yet seen the order.
Facebook posts promoting the event on the Stuck in the Muck and off-road park pages, unlike those for the May event attended by about 300 people, a list of COVID-19 oriented rules was posted that included social distancing, wearing face masks, camping more than 10 feet apart from each other, and for those who were sick or starting to feel sick, a clear message: “Go home! You do not belong here!”
The rules also encouraged people who are at a high risk for contracting COVID-19 not to attend the event.
In the hundreds of photos of the event, however, no masks were worn, the campsites were closer together than indicated and importantly, the event was clearly attended by many hundreds of people, much more than currently allowed under the Phase IV reopening.
“I can tell you, it was the biggest show we’ve ever had. Usually we have between 200 and 300 people,” Mr. Young said. “But honestly the COVID thing increased it. There are other ATV parks in the state... but we’re the only one in the north.”
People at the event came from states all over the Northeast, Mr. Young said, although some attendees reported seeing riders from as far south as the Carolinas and Florida and as far west as Ohio, although Mr. Young said he had not noticed plates from those states.
While Mr. Young does not deny that COVID-19 exists, he doesn’t believe it’s any different from other maladies nor that Stuck in the Muck could spread the virus.
“I believe it’s a thing. There’s always a concern but there’s always a concern for anything out there. I deal with it every day. It doesn’t matter whether it’s that, the flu or AIDS. There’s always a concern for something,” Mr. Young said.
Mr. Young claims law enforcement who “stopped by” the event, including Lewis County “Sheriff (Michael) Carpinelli, the state police, the fire department, we had homeland security that was there. We had all these different people in the park and everyone said we were doing a great job.”
In the past, Mr. Carpinelli had said that he does not believe the governor’s executive orders are constitutional and so therefore he can’t enforce them.
“It’s a state issue, let the state do it. Just like he (Gov. Cuomo) had the state deal with New York City — he sent the state police down, he sent the state Department of Health down to New York City — do the same thing here,” Mr. Carpinelli said. “There’s no validity, I’m sorry, there’s no validity for me when you’re allowed to tear down statues; when you’re allowed to have riots, burn buildings, hit police officers, throw bricks, there’s no validity for me. If you want to hold everybody accountable, we’ll take care of it, but for now it’s a state issue so let the state handle it.”
From the state’s perspective, however, enforcing laws is Mr. Carpinelli’s part of the job and he doesn’t get to choose which ones.
“Sheriffs are elected to enforce the laws on the books and have a constitutional obligation to do so. This is about public health, not politics or personal opinion,” Mr. Conwall said. “The sheriff should do the job he was elected to do — enforce the law.”
With the cease and desist order, however, holding their event planned for Aug. 21-23 or any other gatherings of that size that are not yet allowed through the phased reopening could cause significant repercussions.
“If the operator ignores the order and moves forward with future events, they will face serious penalties, including but not limited to fines of up to $10,000 and suspension or revocation of state license to operate.”
Mr. Young said he left a message with the department of health to find out about the order Friday.